A key House lawmaker on Monday called for the chamber’s ethics committee to launch an investigation into Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw for his role in a controversial campaign by Veterans Affairs officials to discredit a sexual assault victim.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and the head of the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on military personnel, blasted Crenshaw’s alleged involvement in the scandal as “abhorrent” and said her colleagues need to fully investigate the issue.
“If true, Rep. Crenshaw fed false information to Sec Wilkie in order to help vilify a victim & impugn her character,” she wrote on Twitter. “The Ethics Committee must launch an investigation into these claims.”
Wilkie is facing criticism for his handling of a sexual assault complaint at a department medical center.
In a statement, Justin Discigil, Crenshaw’s communications director, called Speier’s comments " a completely fabricated narrative not based in facts.”
“What is the ethics violation? As Rep. Crenshaw has said repeatedly, any claim that he participated in a ‘smear campaign’ is absurd and totally false,” he said.
On Saturday, Speier and other leaders on the Democratic Women’s Caucus called for VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to resign for his conduct in the case, which stems from a September 2019 sexual assault complaint filed by a House staffer after an incident at the Washington D.C. VA medical center.
The staffer — Andrea Goldstein, a Naval reservist who works on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee — said she was groped and verbally abused by a man while she was waiting in a public area of the hospital.
Wilkie promised an independent investigation into the case, but an inspector general report released last week criticized the VA secretary for “unprofessional” efforts to discredit Goldstein while that work was conducted.
Since the report’s release, 16 lawmakers (all Democrats) and 15 veterans organizations (including all of the so-called “big six” veterans groups) have called for Wilkie to resign.
But Crenshaw’s role in the case has received less public attention.
Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye during a bomb attack in Afghanistan, has publicly denied any involvement in the case. But investigators said that Wilkie claimed he was approached by the congressman at a December 2019 event where Crenshaw related that he had served in the same unit as Goldstein and implied she was a fraud.
That allegation — circulated in emails by Wilkie — was used by multiple top officials to cast doubt on Goldstein’s credibility, investigators said.
In an interview with Newsweek earlier this year, Crenshaw said he believes Wilkie confused separate events around that time frame where the two spoke, and denied attacking Goldstein at either event.
He has also accused Democratic leaders multiple times of creating “a narrative” to damage him politically.
The report accuses senior officials of ignoring problems within the department to pursue political vendettas instead.
The report said they did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Wilkie or Crenshaw and did not make any recommendations for improvements related to the case.
It did label both men’s actions as “unprofessional and disparaging.” However, investigators acknowledged that since Crenshaw would not speak to them, their characterization of the congressman’s role was dependent on Wilkie’s claims.
The ethics committee did not immediately respond to Speier’s request. The panel is charged with investigating any alleged violations of the House rules “or any related statutes by House members” by lawmakers or staff.