DOJ expected to announce indictment of Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar


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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is expected to announce the indictment of longtime Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, on Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Cuellar’s home and campaign office in Laredo, Texas, were raided in January 2022 as part of a federal investigation into Azerbaijan and a group of U.S. businessmen who have ties to the country, law enforcement said at the time. His office had pledged to cooperate with the investigation. In April, Cuellar's lawyer, Joshua Berman, told some news outlets that federal authorities informed him he was not the target of the investigation.

Cuellar is a one-time co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.

It wasn't immediately clear if the indictment was related to the 2022 raid. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Cuellar’s staff were calling other member offices Friday seeking advice on how to handle the situation, one source with knowledge of those calls told NBC News.

In a statement Friday, Cuellar denied any wrongdoing, saying that he had "proactively sought legal advice" from the House Ethics Committee, which had issued "more than one written opinion" about the matter. Much of his statement focused on his wife, Imelda Cuellar, though it wasn't immediately clear why.

“I want to be clear that both my wife and I are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas," Cuellar said in his statement, later adding: "The actions I took in Congress were consistent with the actions of many of my colleagues and in the interest of the American people ..."

"Imelda and I have been married for 32 years. On top of being an amazing wife and mother, she’s an accomplished businesswoman with two degrees. She spent her career working with banking, tax, and consulting," he continued. "The allegation that she is anything but qualified and hard working is both wrong and offensive."

A defiant Cuellar also made clear he will seek re-election: "Let me be clear, I’m running for re-election and will win this November.”

A year after the raid on his home — which has not previously yielded arrests or charges — Cuellar told the Texas Tribune: “There has been no wrongdoing on my part. ... My focus remains the same from my very first day in office: delivering results for Texans across my district.”

Despite the raid, Cuellar narrowly defeated a progressive challenger, Jessica Cisneros, in his 2022 primary and went on to win re-election to his seat that November. He didn't face a primary challenger this year and will be on the ballot this November seeking his 11th term in Congress.

Two years ago, Cuellar easily defeated Republican nominee Cassy Garcia, 57% to 43%. His district became bluer when he picked up parts of San Antonio following redistricting. But the indictment will make Cuellar more vulnerable than in the past. Two Republicans will face each other in a runoff election in late May for a chance to take on Cuellar in the fall.

Cuellar, 66, a lawyer, is a former customs broker and Texas secretary of state. A member of the centrist Blue Dogs and New Democrat Coalition, Cuellar was elected to the House in 2004.

He's the only Democrat left in Congress who opposes abortion rights — a position that has infuriated many in his party.

US congressman indicted on bribery charges​

Federal prosecutors indicted a US congressman Friday on bribery and money laundering charges connected to a bank in Mexico and an energy company owned by Azerbaijan.

Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, accepted around $600,000 in exchange for advancing the interests of the bank and the former Soviet Republic over seven years through at least November 2021, according to the indictment.

"In exchange for the bribes paid by the Azerbaijani oil and gas company, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to use his office to influence US foreign policy in favor of Azerbaijan" the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

"In exchange for the bribes paid by the Mexican bank, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to influence legislative activity and to advise and pressure high-ranking US executive branch officials regarding measures beneficial to the bank."

The DOJ alleges that the bribes were laundered into shell companies owned by the 68-year-old congressman's wife Imelda Cuellar, who was indicted alongside him.

The couple surrendered to the authorities on Friday and were released on bail.

They are facing more than a dozen counts each -- ranging from bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud to money laundering -- and could be looking at prison sentences lasting decades if convicted.

Cuellar, who represents a stretch of Texas stretching from San Antonio to the Mexico border, released a statement denying any wrongdoing by the couple, and said it would not stop him running for reelection.

"The actions I took in Congress were consistent with the actions of many of my colleagues and in the interest of the American people," he said.

FBI agents raided Cuellar's home and campaign office in 2022 as part of a probe into ties between oil-rich Azerbaijan and a group of US businessmen.

The centrist -- one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in Congress -- saw off a challenge from a progressive rival to be reelected even after the scandal broke.

Hakeem Jeffries, who leads the Democratic minority in the House of Representatives, said Cuellar is "entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence" but would step down from a top subcommittee posting.