OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, got into a tense back-and-forth with a GOP lawmaker during a hearing on Tuesday in the waning weeks of her panel leadership.
The hearing was convened to discuss the recent collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which lost customers billions of dollars. The former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, was scheduled to testify before the committee, but he was indicted by the Justice Department Tuesday morning on a basket of charges, including fraud, that were filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“I would like to enter into the record the closing statements from Ranking Member [Patrick] McHenry [R-N.C.] and myself,” Waters said at one point, in an attempt to close out the meeting.
But Waters apparently forgot to call on Rep. Lance Goodwin (R-Texas).
“Chairwoman Waters, Chairwoman Waters,” Gooden sounded off. “I’ve not had an opportunity to testify–to question the witness.”
At that point, an aide whispered something into her ear, but then the California Democrat thanked the witness in what appeared to be another attempt to close out the meeting, which prompted another objection from Goodwin.
“Chairwoman Waters,” he said. “Parliamentary inquiry?”
“Yes?” she said in response.
“Are all members entitled to question witnesses?” he asked.
“You are!” she fired back, going on to suggest that extending the hearing further would cause members to miss a vote. “If you would like to miss the votes on the floor for–”
“Hey, it’s the chairwoman’s prerogative to call a recess,” Gooden protested.
“Just one moment, please!” Waters bit back.
“That’s your decision, not mine,” Goodwin continued.
“You may go right ahead and have five minutes,” Waters then said.
“Thank you, Madam Chair,” said the Texas Republican as he then proceeded to question the witness.
“You’re certainly welcome, sir!” Waters said.
Lmfao Rep. Maxine Waters tried to end the FTX hearing before Rep. @Lancegooden got a chance to question the witnesses, who had to remind her that all the members of a committee are entitled to questions. pic.twitter.com/wYTxSsLVg3
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) December 13, 2022
Bankman-Fried was charged with eight counts of criminal actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission that included conspiracy and wire fraud after allegedly misappropriating billions of dollars in customer funds before the collapse of his $30 billion crypto empire.
The government’s indictment, unsealed Tuesday morning, charges the former FTX boss with conspiring “to defraud customers of FTX.com by misappropriating those customers’ deposits and using those deposits to pay expenses and debts of Alameda Research.” The charges include conspiring to commit wire fraud on customers and lenders, wire fraud on customers and lenders, conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering, according to Zero Hedge.
But some of the most serious charges are conspiracy to defraud the United States and violations of campaign finance laws after becoming the second-largest donor to Democrats during the 2020 election cycle.
The indictment reads, in part:
[SBF] willfully and knowingly did combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to commit offenses against the United States by engaging in violations of federal law involving the making, receiving, and reporting of a contribution, donation, or expenditure, in violation of Title 52, United States Code, Sections 30109(d) (1) (A) & (0).
[SBF] did defraud the United States, and an agency thereof, by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of a department and agency of the United States through deceitful and dishonest means, to wit, the Federal Election Commission’s function to administer federal law concerning source and amount restrictions in federal elections…
Some found the timing of the indictment suspicious, given that Bankman-Fried was set to testify before Waters’ committee. That includes Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley.
“The arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried yesterday was sudden and unexpected in light of Bankman-Fried’s plan to testify before Congress,” Turley wrote on his website. “As a criminal defense attorney, my reaction to the arrest last night remains unchanged: this is the first time that I can recall where prosecutors moved aggressively to stop a defendant from making self-incriminating statements. His testimony would have been entirely admissible and likely devastating at trial.”
He added: “I previously wrote how Bankman-Fried was doing harm to his case by speaking in the media and to Congress. So why would the Justice Department move to stop the self-inflicted damage? You have a major target who was about to voluntarily testify for hours. That is ordinarily a dream for prosecutors, but the Justice Department moved quickly to prevent that from happening. At that stage, Bankman-Fried was not charged or in custody. He was not protected by Miranda or other constitutional rules from self-incriminating statements.
“Indeed, some of us had already warned that he was causing himself considerable damage in making such statements. This was a defendant with a large legal team facing possible criminal charges who seemed eager to speak about his actions and motivations. Most prosecutors would sit back, make popcorn, and watch this unfold,” Turley said.