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Waters demands conclusion to ethics case

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Congressional Producer
  • Rep. Maxine Waters is asking the ethics committee to hold its trial this year
  • The committee canceled a trial for Waters that was slated to start Monday
  • Trial was canceled after discovery of e-mails that may affect the case
  • Waters says she has been denied "basic due process"

Washington (CNN) -- Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, called on the House ethics committee Monday to either schedule her trial before Congress completes this year's lame duck session or explain why it won't go forward.

Waters' hearing before the committee was scheduled to begin Monday, but the ethics committee announced before Thanksgiving that the proceeding had been canceled due to the discovery of e-mail communications potentially affecting the case.

It did not indicate whether or when the matter would be revisited.

Waters, a 20-year congresswoman and senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, is alleged to have sought federal assistance for OneUnited Bank, a minority-owned bank in which her husband held a financial interest.

On Monday, Waters repeated her assertion that she did nothing improper. She called the reason for the delay "nothing more than an excuse."

Standing outside the committee room where the trial was to take place, Waters argued that she has been denied "basic due process" and said the decision not to move forward with her trial as planned "demonstrated in no uncertain terms the weakness of their case against me."

Waters said ethics committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-California, said "she was under a lot of pressure" when Waters recently asked her what was going on with her case. Waters declined to elaborate, and Lofgren's office did not respond when asked for a comment.

After almost a year and a half of investigations that started with an independent Office of Congressional Ethics probe, Waters was severely critical of the House ethics committee's handling of her case.

"We just don't understand a lot of about how the committee operates and whether there are consistent rules and whether or not they bungled this case and whether or not they are ready to move forward based on whatever evidence they have or they don't have," she said.

Waters declined to answer any questions about the case itself, saying she simply wanted to talk "about the process and how it has or has not operated."

Earlier this month, the ethics committee completed its trial of New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, finding him guilty of 11 counts, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and improper use of his office to raise funds for an education center named after him. The committee voted 9-1 to censure Rangel.

A full House vote on the committee's recommendation is expected soon.