Their seats already in danger in the 2018 mid-term elections, two GOP lawmakers face additional election year pressure after the House Ethics Committee on Thursday voted to establish official investigative panels to review the federal charges leveled against both Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY).
While the Ethics Committee set up special investigations for the two members, all actions on the two cases were put on hold, after a request by the Department of Justice, so as not to interfere with the work of federal prosecutors, and their upcoming trials.
Democrats still pounced on the news.
“No one is above the law, and Speaker Ryan must call on both Congressmen Collins and Hunter to resign,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Collins was indicted for insider trading and lying to federal agents; prosecutors allege that he received non-public information on an Australian biotech firm, and passed that on to his son and others, allowing them to sell stock and avoid financial losses.
The indictment filed in early August says the New York Republican received that information while at the White House in 2017, where he was attending a Congressional picnic hosted by President Trump.
Hunter and his wife have been charged with using as much as $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, spending it on everything from dental bills to school tuition, vacations, and more.
The indictment also details spending by Hunter involving others; some published reports have indicated they might have been women other than his wife, referred to in the charges as Individuals 14-18.
GOP leaders have not embraced the call for Hunter and Collins to resign, saying their cases should be allowed to go through the legal system first.
“We’ve taken the appropriate action, we’ve removed these members from their committees,” Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week. “These are isolated incidents.”
The announcement of the additional ethics investigations came several days after President Donald Trump had criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for allowing the indictments to go forward during this election year.
“Two easy wins now in doubt,” the President tweeted. “Good job Jeff.”
Asked about that comment by reporters, the Speaker rejected the President’s comments.
“Justice is blind, it should have no impact on political party” Ryan said. “That’s the emblem of the Justice Department.”