May 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

First House Democrat calls on Henry Cuellar to resign

Rep. Henry Cuellar, wearing a blue suit and sitting at a committee dais.

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

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) on Friday became the first House Democrat to call for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) to resign over federal conspiracy and bribery charges.

Why it matters: Cuellar is the second sitting member of Congress currently under indictment, along with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has faced calls for resignation from over half of his Democratic colleagues.

What he's saying: "While the bar for Federal indictment is high, trust in government is at an all-time low," Phillips told Axios in a text message.

  • "That's why I believe any elected official or candidate facing such charges should resign or end their campaign. That includes Sen. Menendez, Donald Trump, and Rep. Cuellar."

The backdrop: In a 54-page indictment, the Justice Department accused Cuellar of taking nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijani government-controlled oil company and a Mexican bank.

  • In exchange for the bribes, prosecutors allege, Cuellar pushed legislation and pressured government officials to benefit Azerbaijan and the bank.
  • Cuellar has proclaimed his innocence and said he plans to run for reelection in November. He secured the Democratic nomination in March.
  • Representatives for Cuellar did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Between the lines: After news of Cuellar's indictment broke, the National Republican Congressional Committee challenged Democrats to call for Cuellar's resignation.

  • "Henry Cuellar does not put Texas first, he puts himself first. If his colleagues truly believe in putting 'people over politics,' they will call on him to resign," NRCC spokesperson Delanie Bomar said.
  • "If not — they are hypocrites whose statements about public service aren't worth the paper they're written on."
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