The House Ethics Committee announced it established a special subcommittee to investigate Rep. Michael G. Grimm, already under federal indictment for allegations of misconduct, but the subcommittee members unanimously voted to wait as the Feds pursue the case against the New York Republican.
Ethics Chairman Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, was named chairman of the subcommittee and ranking Democratic Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California will hold the same role. Also serving on the panel are Ethics members Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. The committee issued a brief statement Friday suggesting they will hold off in deference to the Justice Department:
"The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to defer consideration of the matters in the Investigative Subcommittee's jurisdiction. The Committee, following precedent, unanimously voted to recommend to the Investigative Subcommittee that it defer action on its investigation at this time. No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with Committee rules."
Grimm was recently slapped with a 20-count federal indictment related to the health food store he owned and operated prior to his election to Congress in 2010. He has been accused, among other things, of filing false tax returns, committing mail and wire fraud, withholding over $1 million from the government and and knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.
The bipartisan Ethics Committee is required, within 30 days of a member's indictment, to either empanel an investigative subcommittee to determine whether that member broke House rules in connection to federal charges — or to disclose reasons for not empaneling such a subcommittee.
While the investigative subcommittee stands ready to begin its work, it will abstain from on doing so for the time being. That's in keeping with past precedent wherein the Justice Department requests the Ethics Committee defer action until it can finish up work on its end. In practice, the Ethics Committee could get its ball rolling once the Justice Department grants its blessing, or goes ahead and convicts or exonerates Grimm. In all likelihood, the committee will end up doing nothing, especially if Grimm is forced to leave office in the thick of the scandal. But for now, Grimm is maintaining his innocence, and he has vowed to fight the charges in court and run for a third-term this November.
Grimm appeared in court Monday , but his legal team wouldn't say what would happen next, including whether he will seek a speedy trial to resolve the 20 counts of fraud and tax evasion before the midterm elections. According to news reports from those on the scene earlier this week, the case has been adjourned until July 21 for Grimm's team to review more than 70,000 pages of documents and 8,000 emails that government prosecutors are using as evidence against the congressman. GOP leaders haven't called for him to resign from Congress, but Grimm agreed to step down from his seat on the Financial Services Committee for the duration of the investigation into his alleged misconduct.
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