The FBI raids occurred on Wednesday, with federal brokers reportedly confiscating a number of supplies by the night.
“Congressman Cuellar will absolutely cooperate in any investigation,” his workplace stated in an announcement. “He’s dedicated to making sure that justice and the legislation are upheld.”
The FBI has not launched any statements detailing the aim of the raid, however a report from ABC Information acknowledged that the raids have been “a part of a wide-ranging federal probe regarding the previous Soviet state of Azerbaijan and a number of other U.S. businessmen.”
Cuellar has been the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.
In Could 2013 — the identical month that a number of different members of Congress took a controversial trip to Azerbaijan — Cuellar met with Elin Suleymanov, the previous ambassador of Azerbaijan who ended his lengthy tenure in the USA final yr.
Cuellar was not among the many congressional members who took a visit to Azerbaijan reportedly paid for by an Azerbaijani oil firm, however different members from Texas together with former South Texas Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, traveled with the group. The Home Ethics Committee later cleared the members of Congress of wrongdoing, asserting that they acted in “good religion” and have been misled in regards to the supply of the journey’s funding.
In accordance with one other report on the raid of Cuellar’s residence, the Public Integrity Part (PIN) of the Division of Justice is concerned within the matter. The PIN consists of the Election Crime Branch, which, amongst different election-law associated points, investigates marketing campaign finance crimes.
A report from USA At the moment revealed in 2015 confirmed that Cuellar’s marketing campaign “acquired 9 $2,500 donations from out-of-state Turkish-People on Oct. 7, 2013.”
The USA At the moment report additionally detailed suspicious contributions that different lawmakers acquired from sources apparently tied to the Islamic Gulen motion, the place people with low or average incomes have been making massive donations.
One of many people who contributed to Cuellar’s marketing campaign was Bilal Eksili, who grew to become the president of the Houston-based Turquoise Council of People and Eurasians, one of many main sponsors of the controversial congressional journey to Azerbaijan.
Because the FBI raids of Cuellar’s residence and marketing campaign workplace, the results are starting to be seen in his reelection marketing campaign.
The race is contested by each progressive Democrats who criticize Cuellar’s average positions and Republicans who goal to swing the seat.
Opposing candidates within the race have been cautious about making any accusations towards Cuellar, opting to attend and see how occasions unfold.
“We’re conscious of the information relating to Congressman Cuellar and the energetic FBI investigation. We’re carefully watching as this develops,” acknowledged returning Democratic main challenger Jessica Cisneros. “Within the meantime, we’re targeted on our marketing campaign to ship change to South Texas households and won’t be making any extra feedback at the moment.”
The Justice Democrats, an outdoor group that has supported progressive politicians similar to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and is backing Cisneros, was extra outspoken in regards to the raid being a priority regardless of unclear causes for it.
“The FBI investigation at Congressman Cuellar’s residence and marketing campaign workplace is very regarding,” stated the group. “The folks of South Texas deserve solutions, and the Congressman needs to be clear in regards to the function of the investigation. What’s he hiding?”
Equally, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro weighed in on the matter stating, “Rep. Cuellar is entitled to a presumption of innocence of any wrongdoing. However the working households of TX-28 who want a champion in Congress can’t threat dropping a Democratic seat as a result of the incumbent is underneath a cloud of suspicion.”
With lower than six weeks earlier than the first election, the FBI raid might turn out to be a defining subject at play within the race.
Cuellar’s district attracts nearly a 3rd of its inhabitants from San Antonio and stretches all the way down to embody Laredo and a number of other border counties in South Texas.
The brand new district boundaries for Texas’ twenty eighth Congressional District stored its benefit for Democrats almost the identical, with a Texas Partisan Index score of D-57%, that means that Democrats gained the 2018 and 2020 elections within the district with a mean of 57 % of the vote.
Although Democrats are advantaged within the district primarily based on latest elections, the third-most aggressive seat in Texas can also be within the sights of Republicans who’re ramping up marketing campaign efforts in South Texas.