Between March and September of last year, OCE investigators reviewed documents provided by Hastings, the commission and the complaining witness; interviewed eight witnesses; and attempted to interview at least four other individuals who did not cooperate. Its report concluded that there was enough “probable cause to believe that Rep. Hastings violated House rules, standards of conduct and federal law as a result of his interactions” with his former employee that merited further review.
Hastings blasted the OCE’s investigative process as flawed, alleging that key witnesses were not interviewed and that the office’s application of the rules for referral to the committee was “riddled with error.”
“To be blunt, OCE conducted a shoddy investigation, and now I am left to pay the price for its lack of diligence and poor investigative techniques,” Hastings wrote to Bonner and Sánchez in November.
Hastings likewise pointed out in a statement that Packer began publicizing her book “A Personal Agenda” around the same time as she filed her complaint. The fictional account of the Hill is billed as an “authentic, behind-the-scenes view of how Capitol Hill and Washington movers and shakers wheel and deal,” according to its description on Amazon.com.
“The OCE did not explore the connection between the complainant’s allegations and her side career as a novelist,” Hastings said in a statement.
Packer also acknowledged in a 2007 email included in the OCE report that she had “a crush” on Hastings.
The Ethics Committee’s review of the matter will now enter a phase known as a Rule 18(a) investigation, which is essentially an open-ended probe that allows the committee to “consider any information” that a Member has broken Congressional rules and reserves the right to gather such information until an investigative subcommittee has been established.
Hastings had asked the committee to consider such a move if it did not dismiss his case outright.
“I strongly urge [the committee] to defer the matter until the complainant’s civil lawsuit is resolved or, at a minimum, is at a more advanced stage,” Hastings told Bonner and Sánchez. “A parallel investigation by the Committee will unfairly jeopardize my defense of the litigation.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.