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House Ethics Committee Clears Maxine Waters in Conflict of Interest Case

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Updated 5:47 p.m.

After three years, two Congresses and perhaps close to $1 million in outside legal fees, the House Ethics Committee has finally concluded its probe into alleged misconduct by Rep. Maxine Waters.

Though the committee cleared the 11-term California Democrat of misconduct, the panel convened a rare public hearing today to settle the question of whether to formally admonish Waters' chief of staff and grandson, Mikael Moore.

As of late afternoon, a source close to the committee proceedings told Roll Call that a decision would not be made before the end of the day.

It appeared that the committee was poised to issue a letter of reproval to Moore for knowingly ignoring Waters, who the committee believes explicitly instructed him not to intervene on behalf of a bank in which her husband was a stakeholder. The committee also indicated it was ready to release a report that would essentially clear Waters while finding Moore at fault.

But today's hearing was an opportunity for Moore to make his case, defend his actions and maintain his innocence against charges he knowingly exercised a conflict of interest. The delay in transmitting the reproval letter and the report, based on findings by outside counsel Billy Martin, could indicate that the committee is considering taking a different route.

"No final vote or conclusion has been made in this matter," said acting chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) at the opening of the hearing. "The committee takes this hearing very seriously, and is open to having Mr. Moore persuade us that the [draft report] and potential conclusions we are considering are wrong."

Waters had been facing charges for using her influence as a senior member of the House Ethics Committee to curry favor for OneUnited Bank with Treasury Department officials. The committee ultimately determined that she took all appropriate actions to avoid a conflict and exonerated her of the allegations.

Moore is facing two formal changes of House ethics rules violations, according to his attorney, Andrew Herman: bringing discredit to the House and using a Congressional office to accrue a personal gain. He is also facing allegations of violating a section of the Code of Ethics for Government Service, which prohibits government employees from"accept[ing] for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties."

At the hearing, which was requested by Moore, Waters and her husband, Sidney Williams, sat in the front row behind the witness table where Moore and Herman were seated. Moore argued that the committee, in its own findings, determined that the chronology of events was unknown and because of that, it was not possible to say for certain whether Moore knowingly disregarded Waters' instructions.

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