Jan 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Bowman staves off House Ethics probe of fire alarm incident

Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it is ending its investigation into Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for pulling a House office building fire alarm last September.

Why it matters: The announcement was accompanied by a 16-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics disputing allegations from some Republicans that Bowman intentionally triggered the alarm to delay a vote.

Driving the news: A majority of the 10-member committee, split equally between Democrats and Republicans, voted against creating a subcommittee to pursue the probe, according to a press release from the panel's leaders.

  • The committee, which is required to vote on whether to investigate any member charged with a crime, decided in November not to launch a probe following Bowman's guilty plea to a single local criminal count.
  • The panel ultimately determined that any further review "would be moot" given the House's vote to censure Bowman and confirmation that he is complying with the terms of his plea agreement.

Zoom in: The report labeled "misleading" Bowman's public statements that he mistakenly pulled the alarm in his rush to the House floor vote, believing it would open an emergency door.

  • The report cited the fact that the House was adjourned at the time, messages with staff that suggest he was on his way to a Democratic Caucus meeting and security footage that showed him "calmly" walking away from the door after pulling the alarm.
  • It also chastised Bowman for not taking "reasonable steps to mitigate the potential risk of harm" to people in the building by not informing any Capitol Police officers of his actions.

Yes, but: The report ultimately did not substantiate claims Bowman pulled the alarm to delay a vote on a bill to temporarily fund the government as House Democrats were trying to buy time to review the measure.

  • Bowman, in interviews with the OCE, firmly denied even knowing that Democrats were trying to delay the vote.
  • After consulting with relevant Capitol officials, the OCE also determined that the House office building alarm "did not have any perceivable impact on the ongoing operations in the U.S. Capitol Building."
  • "In summary, the OCE was unable to identify evidence to support a finding that there was substantial reason to believe Rep. Bowman intended to obstruct or otherwise interfere with an official House proceeding," the report said.
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