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McKinney apologizes for scuffle with officer

Grand jury to hear testimony on incident, sources say

Rep. Cynthia McKinney apologizes on the House floor Thursday for a scuffle with a police officer.


Capitol Hill
House of Representatives
Atlanta (Georgia)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Cynthia McKinney apologized on the House floor Thursday for a confrontation with a Capitol Police officer last week.

"There should not have been any physical contact in this incident," McKinney said.

"I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all, and I regret its escalation and I apologize," she said surrounded by colleagues on the House floor.

She said she would vote for a resolution expressing support for the efforts of Capitol Police. (Watch McKinney express her regret Thursday -- :43)

McKinney's apology came as a District of Columbia grand jury began hearing testimony Thursday related to the confrontation, sources said.

A decision on whether the Georgia congresswoman will be charged could come as early as next week, federal law enforcement sources said.

Senior congressional sources said that two House staff members -- Troy Phillips, an aide to Rep. Sam Farr, D-California, and Lisa Subrize, executive assistant to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Michigan -- have been subpoenaed to testify.

Legal sources familiar with the case said the investigation into the incident is continuing and that is it unclear what impact McKinney's apology will have.

Police say McKinney struck a Capitol Police officer last week when the officer did not recognize her as a member of Congress and tried to stop her from entering a House office building when she did not present identification.

McKinney accuses the officer of "inappropriate touching" and racial profiling in the incident.

James Myart, an attorney representing McKinney, said he wouldn't be surprised if his client were indicted.

"Grand juries do what grand juries do," Myart said. "However, I would think that they would recognize that there simply is not enough evidence here to even bring an indictment."

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has declined to comment because the facts of the case are in dispute, met Wednesday evening to discuss the incident. McKinney was in attendance.

Also Wednesday, McKinney deflected questions about the confrontation, while the Capitol Police chief said the lawmaker should have known better. (Watch McKinney deflect questions -- 10:46)

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said McKinney didn't stop at an officer's request, then turned around and hit him after he grabbed her when she passed a security checkpoint.

"Any time an officer does not know who the person is coming in the building, I direct them to stop that person. And even if you're stopped, you're not supposed to hit a police officer. It's very simple," he said. "Even the high and the haughty should be able to stop and say, 'I'm a congressman,' and then everybody moves on."

But Myart said that Gainer and other officers went to McKinney's office after the dispute and apologized for the officer's conduct. Myart also questioned why McKinney wasn't arrested on the spot for assaulting an officer, if that is in fact what happened.

Citing potential criminal charges against McKinney, another of her attorneys, Mike Raffauf, said Wednesday his client would not discuss specifics of the case.

McKinney has acknowledged that when she was stopped she was not wearing the lapel pin given to lawmakers. The lawmaker said the identification pin is irrelevant.

"It doesn't have a face or a photo ID on it, and quite frankly it can be duplicated," she said.

McKinney and her attorneys insist that Capitol Police officers should be trained to recognize all 535 members of Congress on sight.

But while Myart has said McKinney was "assaulted" and that her reaction to the officer was appropriate, Gainer argued that McKinney has turned an officer's failure to recognize her into a criminal matter.

Gainer said race was not an issue and that he has seen officers stop and question white, black and Latino members of Congress. He added that officers are given photos of new members of Congress, but with 30,000 employees in the Capitol complex and more than 9 million visitors a year, officers have "to make sure we know who is coming in the building."

Republicans have seized the opportunity to take shots at the legislator. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called McKinney a "racist" on Fox News Channel and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, downplayed the Georgia lawmaker's allegation of racial profiling.

"This is not about personalities. It's not about somebody's ego. It's not about racial profiling," Hastert said. "It's trying to make this place safer and working with the people that try to make it safer."

Also, two Republican members introduced a resolution Tuesday commending the Capitol Police for their "continued courage and professionalism." (Full story)

McKinney, 51, represents Georgia's 4th Congressional District, a majority-black, Democratic district on the east side of metro Atlanta.

First elected in 1992, she was defeated in a 2002 Democratic primary but made a comeback in 2004, winning her old seat after the candidate who had defeated her two years earlier decided to run for the U.S. Senate.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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