We told you recently that a dozen FBI agents raided the home of Dem Rep Henry Cuellar. They had a grand jury subpoena.
At the time we didn’t know what was going on – it was all very hush-hush.
Well, now some disturbing new details have emerged on that raid, and they involve Rep. Cuellar’s ties to the country of Azerbaijan.
Apparently, Cuellar has been setting up trips for Texas A&M students in Laredo to travel on a two-week junket to Azerbaijan to study energy, business, and policy.
The travel program has been facilitated by Henry Cuellar, who has called the trips a “vast opportunity to strengthen South Texas’ relationship with Azerbaijan.”
But this is just one of many ways Cuellar has taken an interest in the oil-rich former Soviet Republic.
Cuellar has also taken his own trips there and even co-chairs the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus.
Interesting… and there’s more…
The Texas Tribune reported that Rep Cuellar’s ties to the former Russian country have generated new interest after Cuellar’s home and office in Laredo were raided by the FBI. Authorities have not said what they were looking for, and it’s unclear whether Cuellar is a target of any investigation. But ABC News reported the raid was part of a federal grand jury probe. Subpoenas reviewed from the probe by ABC News reportedly sought records from a number of organizations with ties to Azerbaijan, in addition to three Texas-based companies with ties to Cuellar’s wife, Imelda.
Cuellar released a defiant statement on Tuesday, and law enforcement has not charged him with any crimes.
“There is an ongoing investigation that will show that there is no wrongdoing on my part,” he said on a video his campaign released.
“I pride myself on being your congressman and always doing things honestly, ethically and the right way,” he added.
But the whole incident set off questions about why he has been so be eager to advocate for Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet country with a troubled recent history on issues like corruption and human rights. Cuellar didn’t return a request for comment Wednesday and hasn’t addressed his relationship with Azerbaijan since last week’s raid.
Azerbaijan has had a turbulent history since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It borders the Caspian Sea and is otherwise surrounded by Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Russia.
It’s predominantly Muslim, with an economy based on oil exports. But since gaining independence, it has a reputation for corruption and dynastic leadership. The CIA World Factbook describes it as a place where “corruption remains a burden on the economy, and Western observers and members of the country’s political opposition have accused the government of authoritarianism, pointing to elections that are neither free nor fair, state control of the media, and the systematic abuse of human rights targeting individuals and groups who are perceived as threats to the administration.”
To make matters even worse for Cuellar… Azerbaijan has a uniquely aggressive official lobbying arm in Washington, according to members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides.
And Cuellar trips to the oil-rich country are not cheap. Back in 2015, he and his wife, Imelda, traveled to Azerbaijan, at a cost of nearly $25,000. The trip was paid for by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, a Texas-based nonprofit. For the next several years, Cuellar frequently collaborated with Kemal Oksuz, the leader of the nonprofit.
The piece goes on to say that a few months later, a Cuellar staffer took an additional trip to Azerbaijan that also included U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and nine other members. The trip was approved by the Congressional Ethics Office, but The Washington Post later reported the Azerbaijani government’s state oil company secretly funded the junket. Jackson Lee and other members who went on that trip publicly stated at the time that they were misled and that the House Ethics Committee signed off on the trip.
What is some little Texas Rep doing, with these big-time oil-rich moguls?
I’m no expert, but it sounds to me like Mr. Cuellar is likely caught up in some very serious corruption and scandal, and his days in the House are probably numbered.
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