Earlier this month, liberal Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) courted controversy by traveling to Minnesota to protest the police-involved death of Daunte Wright and making incendiary statements about the trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd.
Those actions may be coming back to haunt the lawmaker, however, as conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has just filed a formal complaint with the chair of the House Office of Congressional Ethics against Rep. Waters for encouraging violence and attempting to intimidate a deliberating jury.
The complaint alleges that Waters violated House ethics rules during a visit to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota in which she told those protesting the death of Wright that if Chauvin was not found guilty of murder in the Floyd case, “Well, we’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
In requesting action on the part of the Office of Congressional Ethics, Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch wrote, “Ms. Waters took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the rights accorded to Officer Chauvin to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of his peers and to due process,” adding:
Ms. Waters’ inflammatory comments that pressure the jury, while encouraging rioters already engaged in rampant destruction of property and attacks on police officers to “get more confrontational” are irresponsible and dangerous incitement by a Member of Congress.
Fitton cited House Rule 23, Clause 1, of the Code of Official Conduct of the Rules of the House of Representative, which requires members to “conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,” arguing that Waters’ actions failed to meet that standard. He also pointed out that Waters has engaged in a pattern of similar conduct, telling protestors back in 2018 to “push back,” “create a crowd,” and confront anyone from former President Donald Trump’s Cabinet they may encounter in a public place.
Judicial Watch is not alone in its condemnation of Waters’ remarks to the demonstrators in Minnesota, as Judge Peter Cahill, then presiding over the Chauvin trial, took the opportunity to publicly rebuke the congresswoman for her “abhorrent” comments, telling one of the former police officer’s defense attorneys, “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned, “ as NBC News noted.
Republican lawmakers were also quick to assail the recklessness of Waters’ conduct, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) saying at the time, “It’s harder to imagine anything more inappropriate than a member of Congress flying in from California to inform local leaders, not so subtly, that this defendant had better be found guilty or else there will be big trouble in the streets.”
Not surprisingly, however, Democrats closed ranks around Waters and succeeded in blocking a censure resolution introduced in the House by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared that her colleague had nothing for which to apologize.
While it appears likely that Waters will walk away from this shameful episode with – at most – a slap on the wrist from the ethics office, it is important that groups such as Judicial Watch continue the fight to obtain at least some measure of accountability for conduct so grossly unbecoming an elected official.