Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Cori Bush Campaign Threatens Attorney Who Filed Complaints About Payments To Her Husband

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images for Just Majority)

James Lynch Investigative Reporter
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Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush is threatening a conservative attorney who filed complaints about her congressional campaign’s payments to her husband, the Daily Caller has learned.

David Mitrani, counsel for Cori Bush for Congress, wrote a letter Friday to lawyer Dan Backer, demanding that he retract complaints over Bush’s payments to her husband that he filed on behalf of the Committee to Defeat the President (CDP), a conservative activist group opposed to President Joe Biden. (RELATED: ‘Possible Criminal Violation’: Rep. Cori Bush Changed Description Of Campaign Payments To Husband, FEC Filings Show)

READ THE FULL LETTER:

“We demand that you retract the complaints you have filed that are demonstrably false. Failure to do so – or continued repetition of these false statements with knowledge that they are false and without merit may result in liability for your client,” Mitrani’s letter reads.

“In addition, we believe that the continued assertion by you of these claims with absolutely no basis whatsoever in law or in fact that is not frivolous, could well constitute a violation of Rule 3.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the District of Columbia Bar,” the letter adds.

Bush’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings from the 2022 campaign cycle show that Cortney Merritts, her husband, was paid more than $60,000 for security services despite him lacking a security license in St. Louis, where her congressional district is located, or in Washington, D.C., according to Fox News. Bush for Congress’ paid Merritts for “security services” on five occasions from January to March 2023, FEC filings show.

Her campaign also paid her husband $2,500 once for “security services” and $2,500 six times for “wage expenses” from April to June 2023, her latest FEC filings indicate. CDP filed an FEC complaint in March, urging the commission to look into Bush’s payments to Merritts, and a supplementary FEC complaint in July arguing that by describing the more recent payments as “wage expenses,” Bush had “walked into a legal trap of her making.”

“She’s either falsifying FEC reports that her husband illegally provided security services he’s not licensed to provide, or he did illegally provide them and she violated the law prohibiting paying for illegal things,” the complaint reads.

Backer and CDP wrote a response letter to Mitrani on Tuesday, accusing the attorney of making unsupported allegations that do not refute CDP’s complaint.

“You have not identified any false statements of fact—as opposed to non-frivolous legal conclusions and non-actionable opinions based on disclosed facts— in any of CDP’s filings. Nor have you provided any actual evidence establishing any of CDP’s assertions were false. To the contrary, several of the factual claims you make in the Threat Letter actually bolster CDP’s complaints,” Backer wrote in the letter.

READ THE FULL LETTER:

Mitrani’s letter asserts that Merritts was paid a “fair market value” and that his experience makes him well suited to protect Bush from alleged threats to her life.

CDP’s letter highlights the Bush campaign’s claims that Merritts has provided security protection to “high-ranking officials” and corporate clients, but supplies no evidence. In fact, his experience appears to be in an entirely different industry. CDP’s initial FEC complaint ties Merritts to a moving company he appears to have founded in 2018 in the St. Louis area. The company’s Yelp page states that Merritts previously spent 20 years serving in the military and working as a railroad yardmaster.

Campaigns “may use campaign funds to pay for bona fide, legitimate, professional personal security personnel” to protect themselves from potential threats, the FEC ruled in 2021, according to Roll Call. It’s unclear whether Merritts falls under the “professional” designation for campaign security personnel, though both D.C. and St. Louis County require private security personnel to be licensed. (RELATED: ‘Your Bills Are Racist’: Rep. Cori Bush Screams At House Republicans From House Floor In Heated Debate)

Mitrani’s letter states that Merritts “does not provide personal security services in the District of Columbia, and solely works on scheduling and logistics based on his scope of work.” Bush’s campaign attorney also asserts that Merritts conducts security assessments, manages other security personnel and assesses potential threats.

“CDP has valid doubts as to both the existence and the value of any such scheduling or logistic services since, as CDP’s complaint to the FEC details, Representative Bush was not only protected by the Capitol Police, but paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to P.E.A.C.E. Security for security services,” the CDP letter reads.

CDP also argues in its letter that Bush’s FEC filings classifying the payments as “security services” appear to be false in light of Mitrani’s admission that Merritts was not being paid for security services in the Washington, D.C., area. Bush’s payments to Merritts are directed to an address in St. Louis, according to her FEC filings.

The CDP has also filed additional complaints — solely against Merritts — with the D.C. Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection, and with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, claiming that Merritts’ “security services” violated St. Louis and D.C. law because he was unlicensed. The Bush campaign demanded CDP retract the complaints, even though they did not make any allegations against the Bush campaign.

The campaign accused CDP of making baseless complaints, arguing that Merritts was not providing security in D.C. and that St. Louis only requires security licenses for property protection.

“First, the Committee filed a complaint about Cori Bush’s potentially illegal acts. Then, we updated that complaint, exposing Bush’s attempts to cover it up and calling out her husband for providing what seem to be unlicensed security services. And Bush’s response? Threatening those who try to expose her corruption. You know you’re on the trail of real corruption when they hide behind lawyers and refuse to come clean,” Backer said in a statement to the Daily Caller.

Bush and Merritts were married in a private ceremony in Feb. 2023, local outlet KSDK first reported. The couple obtained a marriage license in St. Louis on Feb. 11 and married a few days later, per the outlet. Bush rose to prominence as a Black Lives Matter activist and member of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democratic lawmakers led by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Bush has called for defunding the police on numerous occasions, despite her campaign expenditures on private security for herself.

“With all due respect, Mr. President. You didn’t mention saving Black lives once in this speech,” Bush tweeted during President Joe Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address. “Defund the police. Invest in our communities.”

Bush’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.