The U.S. Justice Department is quietly conducting a criminal investigation into “Squad” Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MN), according to six sources who spoke with veteran Capitol Hill reporter Jake Sherman.
🚨BREAKING NEWS — THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT is conducting a criminal probe into @CoriBush, according to six sources familiar with the investigation.
The Justice Department subpoenaed the House Sergeant at Arms for records relating to the misspending of federal security money.…
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) January 30, 2024
Sherman made the scoop Tuesday morning, promising more details by midday on what is sure to be a headache for House Democrats and the Biden administration. Rep. Bush has previously been criticized for a six-figure sweetheart deal she struck with a bodyguard who has a history of making virulent antisemitic statements. Bush and Cortney Merritts, another bodyguard, tied the knot in a private ceremony in February 2023.
Between 2020 and 2022, Rep. Bush spent approximately $500,000 on security detail. Her “Defund the Police” mantra opened her up to criticism of accepting security while calling for the dismantling of urban police departments around the nation. By February 2023, that figure had grown to more than $627,000, according to the New York Post.
The Daily Mail added that the DOJ has subpoenaed the House Sergeant at Arms for records relating to the misuse of congressional funds for security purposes. As of today, Rep. Bush has spent more than three-quarters of a million dollars in taxpayer funds on security line items for her office.
Previously the nonpartisan watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) petitioned the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate Bush for paying Merrits and other security personnel through a mix of public dollars and campaign donations.
“It appears Rep. Bush’s campaign may have made payments for services that were unnecessary or above fair market value because of her personal relationship with the payee,” FACT executive director Kendra Arnold said in the complaint. “If so, these payments would qualify as either impermissible payments to a family member or an impermissible gift.”
“While hiring family members is frowned upon, it is not illegal. It would only be illegal if Bush paid her now-spouse over ‘fair market value.’ Payments to family members must be for ‘bonafide services’ related to their official duties.”
“Therefore, we request the FEC investigate whether Rep. Bush converted campaign funds for personal use by paying a salary that was not for bona fide services at fair market value,” FACT wrote.
Grilled about her extensive use of security back in 2021, Rep. Bush defended the expenditures as necessary to protect her from threats against her life.
“I’m going to make sure I have security because I know I have had attempts on my life and I have too much work to do,” she told CBS News that year. ‘So, if I end up spending $200,000, if I spend … 10 more dollars on it, you know what? I get to be here to do the work.”
Rep. Bush is the second Squad member to run into ethically dubious territory when it comes to hiring family. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), another Defund the Police supporter, spent $2.9 million on a consulting firm run by her husband in 2021.
Bush has drawn a Democratic primary challenger from former federal prosecutor Wesley Bell, who has raised more than $600,000 since launching his campaign back in October.