May 16, 2018, 3:16 PM ET

Nancy Pelosi believes Ethics committee has 'discretion' to break own rules limiting investigative jurisdiction

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a veteran of the Committee on Ethics, said she believes the panel has the “discretion” to launch an ethics probe outside of the scope of its investigative jurisdiction.

On May 5, Pelosi called on the Ethics Committee to launch a “prompt investigation” into allegations of sexual assault against California Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas.

House rules, however, limit the ethics committee’s investigative jurisdiction, precluding it from undertaking violations that “occurred before the third previous Congress unless the committee determines that the alleged violation is directly related to an alleged violation that occurred in a more recent Congress.” Because lawmakers are currently in the 115th session of Congress, the “third previous Congress” would be the 112th Congress, cutting off the committee’s jurisdiction on January 5, 2011.

PHOTO: Rep. Tony Cardenas speaks at the Media Solutions Summit at the Russell Senate Office Building, April 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C.Paul Morigi/Getty Images, FILE
Rep. Tony Cardenas speaks at the Media Solutions Summit at the Russell Senate Office Building, April 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

“I appreciate your view. I don't necessarily share it and there is some precedent for going back farther,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said when pressed by ABC on the committee’s apparent inability to look into the allegations.

Unless the sexual assault allegations are “directly related” to an additional allegation that occurred after the start of the 112th Congress, House rules state that the ethics committee cannot investigate Cárdenas because the 2007 alleged incident happened too long ago.

Cárdenas is not known to face any more recent alleged violations.

Despite those parameters, Pelosi, who boasts that she has “served longer than anybody” on the Ethics committee, insisted the committee has “discretion” to break that rule.

“I do believe that there is discretion for them to do this, so let them decide and then we'll go from there,” Pelosi contended. “They have that discretion to decide.”

“Let's see what the Ethics committee has to say about it,” Pelosi maintained.

Tom Rust, chief counsel and staff director at the House Ethics committee, has declined to comment on the Cárdenas matter.

Cárdenas, a third-term California Democrat, identified himself through an attorney last month as the subject of a civil suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 27 by attorney Lisa Bloom. That complaint alleges that in 2007 an "elected politician" – which Cárdenas acknowledges is him – assaulted an unnamed 16-year-old girl.

According to the lawsuit, which never identifies Cárdenas by name, the accuser says the man fondled her as he drove her to a hospital, touching her vagina and rubbing her breasts after she collapsed while playing golf at the Hillcrest Country Club in 2007.

The young woman said the politician handed her water with “a distinctly different” taste before the two teed off. About four or five hours into a round of golf with him, she "suddenly collapsed to the ground but did not lose consciousness," according to the court filing.

During the ride to the hospital, the man allegedly reached into her shirt, rubbing her breasts, and also reached down her shorts "intermittently throughout the drive."

The alleged incident continued for 30 to 45 minutes during the drive, according to the court filing. At the time of the alleged assault, the victim says she was awake in the car’s passenger seat with her eyes closed and head resting on the window. “Frozen from shock,” she pretended to sleep and did not react to the alleged assault.

Cárdenas denies the allegations, according to a statement released by his lawyer.

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  • Ex_ATC

    She is an embarrassment to the Human Race. IMHO.

  • brian nrndss

    what the fudge...............really: Nancy Pelosi believes Ethics committee has 'discretion' to break own rules limiting investigative jurisdiction..................she hates T and let that affect what is right...........time to go

  • Thomas

    The flaw in our system is the congress makes the rules for congress and only congress can investigate congress.

    Our founding fathers were a bit naive about the integrity of congress.

  • Yippe Kiyay

    In other words ... she will investigate Republican issues but not Democrat's. hahhaha

  • CaptnBlynd

    "Its OK when we do it. Rules are for others." Will we ever have one set of rules for everyone?

  • Curmudgathrope

    How is it ethical for an ethics committee to change the rules under which they ethically operate?

  • Gimme__A__break

    This piece of garbage is my Congressman :(

  • Colinalcarz

    This is why Pelosi is such a mystery to Republicans, she is willing to go to extremes to prosecute a member of her own party if the nature of the alleged crime warrants it. I doubt her republican counterpart would lift a finger unless a well publicized scandal were already brewing.

  • screminmimi

    Pelosi HAS no ethics, in my opinion. What the heck is she talking about. Why hasn't Hillary been prosecuted?

  • Kansasgirl52

    Speaking of Ethics Nancy....how about you release the names of ALL the Congress members who used the "Fund" of taxpayers' money to cover up and provide Hush money for their indiscretions?? That is NOT the taxpayers' responsibility, that is the perpetrator's responsibility!! Infuriates Me!!

  • mickey2829

    keep Pelosi in the news. she is a gift to the republicans.