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Rep. Waters Defends Herself Against Ethics Charges

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Rep. Waters Defends Herself Against Ethics Charges

Politics

Rep. Waters Defends Herself Against Ethics Charges

Rep. Waters Defends Herself Against Ethics Charges

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Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters defended herself against ethics charges Friday in the court of public opinion. She held an hour-long press conference and PowerPoint presentation to say she has done nothing wrong.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Congresswoman Maxine Waters is taking her case to the public. The California Democrat is accused of improperly using her power to secure government help for a bank her husband owns an interest in. The House Ethics Committee is investigating, and has charged her with violations. Waters made a lengthy presentation in her own defense today, but not to the committee. She made it to the press.

Here's NPR's Andrea Seabrook.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Congresswoman Maxine Waters' first complaint is with the timing and slow pace of the ethics investigation.

Representative MAXINE WATERS (Democrat, California): It does not provide due process. It prevents my constituents and the American public from getting answers, and it delays me from being able to respond to the charges spelled out in the SAV.

SEABROOK: The SAV is the statement of alleged violations. It's the list of ethics charges against Waters, mainly that she broke House rules starting when she organized a meeting between Treasury Department officials and a representative of a bank in which Waters' husband owns an interest, and later when her staff took steps to help the bank.

Waters says she was not trying to reap some benefit for her husband, but trying to give members of a minority bankers' association the same access to government officials that big, commercial banks have.

Ms. WATERS: This case is about access. It's about access for those who are not heard by the decision-makers, whether it's having their questions answered or their concerns addressed.

SEABROOK: After Waters made this point, her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, who is also her grandson, launched into a lengthy PowerPoint presentation showing emails, snippets of testimony and documents he said back up the congresswoman's case. Moore's slideshow culminated in this argument.

Mr. MIKAEL MOORE (Chief of Staff to Representative Maxine Waters): All of these charges depend on the receipt of a benefit in identifiable and actionable assistance. No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced - no case.

SEABROOK: Waters took questions from the gathered reporters afterward, the most salient being: Why are you doing this here, instead of before the Ethics Committee?

Ms. WATERS: I believe that if you're going to write about this story, you need to know what you're writing about. Some of you have been all over the place in what you know, and what you don't know. And so I thought it was important for you to get as much information as you can possibly get.

SEABROOK: Waters will likely give this presentation once again, in front of the Ethics Committee. But in that hearing, the charges against her will also be explained and supported.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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