Rep. Cori Bush offers defense of security spending amid DOJ probe

 February 2, 2024

As a DOJ probe of her possible misuse of campaign funds to pay for private security continues to heat up, progressive “Squad” member Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) has come out in her own defense in a very public way, as Fox News reports.

Bush, long a champion of efforts to defund the police, responded to the growing scandal during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC's The ReidOut, despite liberal host Joy Reid's seeming reluctance to broach the subject.

It emerged this week that the Justice Department recently issued a grand jury subpoena to the House sergeant at arms for documents, and though the reason was not immediately clear, two sources later confirmed to NBC News that the probe related to a Democrat lawmaker later revealed to be Bush.

It was early last year when the congresswoman began courting controversy after marrying Cortney Merritts, her personal security guard, and ultimately leaving him on her campaign's payroll.

Complaints about the arrangement were lodged with the Federal Election Commission, and though federal law does prohibit legislators from paying relatives to work on their official staffs, they can be paid for campaign tasks, provided they are rendering “bona fide services to the campaign” and do not receive more than “fair market value" in terms of compensation.

According to NBC News, Bush has spent over $750,000 on security since first running for Congress in 2018, and the congresswoman explained that she hired Merritts due to his “extensive experience in this area” and his ability “to provide the necessary services at or below a fair market rate.”

Merritts, for his part, is reported to have been paid over $120,000 since joining Bush's campaign payroll in early 2022.

Explaining to Reid how Merritts came to provide the aforementioned services, Bush said, “We couldn't pay the big cost for security like some of my colleagues are able to do, and so we went with what we could afford. It worked out for a while, but then we started having call-offs, you know, people just now showing up to work, people sleeping on the job, and so it was very hard for me to have security when it was unreliable.”

Bush went onto explain that amid that sort of unpredictable staffing, Merritts was “able to pick up that slack and not only was he able to pick it up, he could handle all of it.”

As the controversy began to unfold, Bush accused “right-wing” adversaries of leveling “baseless complaints” against her, as NBC News noted.

“I am under no illusion that these right-wing organizations will stop politicizing and pursuing efforts to attack me and the work that the people of St. Louis sent me to Congress to do: to lead boldly, to legislate change my constituents can feel, and to save lives,” Bush said.

As The Hill reported, news of the DOJ's probe prompted a pointed reaction from Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), who suggested that Bush would not need so much costly security protection if she was not “so loud all the time.”

Nehls mused, “She doesn't even support the police. But the idea to pay her thug, money to try to help protect her this and that, for what?”

Pressed to state whether he believed that threats against the congresswoman were deserved, the Texas Republican answered in the negative, but added, "[W]hat I'm saying is, is that when you're out there talking the way she does, I am [not] surprised that people are probably upset because she is pretty radical. And maybe she should tone it down a little bit.”