Cori Bush under Justice Department investigation over alleged misuse of security funds

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The Justice Department is investigating ‘Squad’ member Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., over the alleged misuse of government funds intended to pay for her security, two sources tell Fox News.

The probe is related to allegations of federal security money being spent improperly, the sources said.

A subpoena announcement was read on the House floor Monday, and sources said it was related to the investigation into Bush.

The Justice Department declined to comment. 

Responding to Fox News Digital, Bush’s office provided a statement confirming the ‘Department of Justice is reviewing my campaign’s spending on security services.’ 

The congresswoman blamed ‘right-wing organizations’ for the DOJ probe, as well as other investigations into the matter by the Federal Election Commission and the House Committee on Ethics. ‘I have not used any federal tax dollars for personal security services. Any reporting that I have used federal funds for personal security is simply false,’ she said in part. 

One of those watchdog groups, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), reacted to news of the Justice Department probe and defended havingfiled an official complaint with the FEC in 2023 regarding the details of repeated payments Bush made to a man who is now her current husband.

‘In her own FEC filings the payments were initially characterized as being for ‘security.’ Among the many troubling facts involved that we strongly felt justified an investigation were her close personal relationship, her large payments to others for the same services at the same time, and that her husband reportedly didn’t have a license to provide those services,’ FACT executive director Kendra Arnold said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital. 

‘Unfortunately, after our complaint was filed, Rep. Bush changed the language on her disclosure describing the continuing payments to her husband to something amorphous and vague, ‘wage payments,’ which at a minimum is contrary to the purpose of the law to clearly describe the purposes of campaign disbursements,’ she said. ‘Our hope, as it always is with our complaints, is that a thorough and fair investigation reveals the truth of the matter and whether any legal violations have occurred.’

Arnold added, ‘The rules and laws governing the use and disclosure of federal campaign expenditures are written to ensure that those in Congress elected to represent us do so without personally profiting from their office. The facts alone speak to the need for an investigation, citizens deserve the truth, and we are glad that several governmental bodies have found an investigation is merited and look forward to the outcomes.’

In a message read aloud by a House clerk on Monday to notify Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland relayed that his office received a grand jury subpoena for documents issued by the Justice Department and added that the sergeant of arms office would comply with that subpoena. The message did not elaborate further.

Speculation swirled on social media about what the DOJ probe could be about, including whether it was related to Jan. 6, but sources later pointed to Bush instead. 

Bush notably has spent more than $500,000 on her own private security while publicly advocating for the defund the police movement. 

PunchBowl News first reported the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into Bush, connected with the House sergeant at arms subpoena.

Bush’s husband and former security guard, Cortney Merritts, who she married in February 2023, has pocketed more than $100,000 in payments since Bush added him to her campaign’s payroll in January 2022 for what they marked as ‘security’ payments before switching their description to ‘wage expenses’ in April, Fox News Digital previously reported.

In March 2023, Bush was hit with two FEC complaints over security payments she made to her new husband.

One complaint comes from the Committee to Defeat the President, an anti-Biden super PAC, which alleges Bush has ‘flouted’ federal campaign finance laws by paying Merritts $60,000 for security in 2022. Merritts does not have a license to perform security functions in the congresswoman’s district.

Bush’s campaign also paid $225,281 to the St. Louis-based PEACE Security firm for personal protection throughout 2022. Bush and Merritts have been together since before she entered Congress in 2021, a press release from her office said.

FACT also filed a complaint to ask the FEC to investigate whether Bush ‘used campaign funds for personal use,’ citing the $60,000 payment in 2022 for security services provided to Merritts.

‘It appears Rep. Bush’s campaign may have made payments for services that were unnecessary or above fair market value because of her personal relationship with the payee,’ Arnold wrote in the complaint at the time. ‘If so, these payments would qualify as either impermissible payments to a family member or an impermissible gift.’

‘Therefore, we request the FEC investigate whether Rep. Bush converted campaign funds for personal use by paying a salary that was not for bona fide services at fair market value,’ the complaint said. ‘Ultimately, if one or more campaign laws are found to have been broken, we request the FEC hold the respondents accountable.’

Fox News’ Joe Schoffstall contributed to this report.

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