US Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas denies wrongdoing amid reports of pending indictment

WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas denied any wrongdoing amid reports of pending charges involving the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

The former congressman released a statement Friday saying he and his wife are “innocent of these allegations.”

“Everything I did in Congress was to serve the people of South Texas,” Cuellar said. “Before taking any action, I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, which provided me with more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm.

“In addition, we requested a meeting with Washington DC prosecutors to explain the facts, but they refused to discuss the case with us or hear our side.”

Neither Cuellar nor his attorney immediately responded to calls for comment on the case. U.S. Justice Department officials did not immediately confirm the charges.

NBC News, CNN and Fox News, all citing anonymous sources familiar with the case, reported Friday that the Justice Department was expected to announce Cuellar’s indictment.

Cuellar was once the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.

The FBI searched the congressman’s home in the border city of Laredo in 2022, and Cuellar’s attorney said at the time that Cuellar was not the target of that investigation. That search was part of a broader investigation involving Azerbaijan that involved FBI agents filing a series of subpoenas and conducting interviews in Washington, D.C. and Texas, a person with direct knowledge of the investigation previously told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Federal disclosures show the nine-term congressman traveled to Azerbaijan in 2013. Two years later, Cuellar’s office announced an agreement between a Texas university and an organization called the Assembly of Friends of Azerbaijan aimed at collaborating in oil and gas research and education. .

Cuellar, one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, narrowly defeated progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in a 2022 primary by fewer than 300 votes.