Rep. Cuellar, staff took sponsored trips to Azerbaijan coordinated by convicted businessman

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Records show that Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and his staff took multiple sponsored trips to the country of Azerbaijan in recent years as he finds himself reportedly entangled in a federal probe investigating ties between U.S. businessmen and the former Soviet republic.

Documents obtained by Fox News show that in 2013, Cuellar and his wife took a $25,000 trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan which included a stay at a luxury hotel and was sponsored by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 30: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaks on southern border security and illegal immigration, during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. Cuellar urged the Biden administration to name former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as a border czar. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The organization describes itself as “a leading independent and an umbrella organization committed to advancing the interaction among American and Turkish, Turkic and Eurasian people by bringing “people together by hosting public programs and private events featuring leaders and experts with diverse views on a wide range of global and regional topics through task forces, executive forums, luncheons, conferences, studies, and leadership dialogue.”

The trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee and, according to the Intercept, Turquoise Council president Kemal Oksuz told the committee that no foreign money was used to pay for the trip.

Oksuz pleaded guilty in 2018 for failing to disclose the fact that a different congressional trip to Azerbaijan in 2013, which Cuellar did not attend, had been paid for by a foreign government. Oksuz was convicted in 2019.

In May of 2013, Cuellar’s Deputy Chief of Staff Amy Travieso took a sponsored trip to Azerbaijan and stayed at the Four Seasons in the capital city of Baku where she met with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. 

Travieso met with the oil company to discuss new pipelines from the Caspian Sea to Europe and to inform Cuellar of “foreign aid needs and requests.”

Travieso’s trip was also sponsored by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians.

UNITED STATES – JUNE 27: Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, talks with reporters in the Capitol after a meeting of House Democrats on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Travieso, who joined the American Petroleum Institute in June of last year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.

In September of 2013, Cuellar co-sponsored a resolution in Congress showing support for a gas corridor project in Azerbaijan saying that it was in the “national interest” of the United States.

Cuellar also traveled to Azerbaijan on official business in 2018 on a trip that was paid for by taxpayers.

In the past, Cuellar has served as a co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus and met with multiple Azerbaijani officials, including the country’s ambassador, Elin Suleymanov.

FBI agents were spotted at Cuellar’s home and campaign office in Laredo, Texas on Wednesday as part of an investigation that the bureau later confirmed was part of “authorized law enforcement activity.”

Cuellar’s office told Fox News at the time that the Texas Democrat was fully cooperating with the investigation. 

On Thursday, CNN reported that the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates bribery and government integrity, is involved in the investigation.

On Friday, ABC News reported that subpoenas have been issued to Cuellar, his wife, and at least one staffer seeking records “relating to anything of value” regarding Cuellar’s relationship with certain business leaders and foreign officials and asks for records related to “work, act, favor, or service” that Cuellar may have provided to foreign companies.

It is unclear whether Cuellar is a direct target of the investigation.

Cuellar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, speaks with the media in front of the West Wing after a bipartisan meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Washington. Cuellar beat challenger Jessica Cisneros on Tuesday.
(Associated Press)

Cuellar, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Biden administration’s handling of the illegal immigrant influx at the southern border, released a campaign ad this week following the FBI’s visit to his home and office.

“This land gave my family a chance,” Cuellar says at the end of the 30-second ad. “That’s why I’ll never stop fighting for South Texas.”

The Democratic primary for Cuellar’s seat representing Texas’s 28th congressional district takes place in early March.

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