US Capitol Hill Ethics chief, Omar Ashmawy, accused of Physically and Verbally Assaulting Women and Abusing Position in Civil Suit
A key official involved in House investigations faces a federal lawsuit alleging misconduct.
Our ongoing series into congressional ethics violations reaches new heights with this week’s feature on Omar Seifeldin Ashmawy, 40, the staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Mr. Ashmawy was born and raised in New Jersey to immigrant parents from Egypt (father) and Italy (mother). His mother was Catholic, but he was reared in his father’s faith tradition and grew up as a practicing Muslim.
Omar Ashmawy attended George Washington University, earning an undergraduate and a Law degree before joining the Air Force where he served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). Highlights from his early career are as one of the four prosecutors on the Salim Hamdan terrorism case.
In an article he wrote on Sept 14, 2011 for Madison.com titled Omar Ashmawy: We’re still in the dark about Muslims, Ashmawy shares his views on American / Muslims relations.
My final assignment in my eight years in the Air Force was as a war crimes prosecutor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. With access to our nation’s most intimate secrets, I shuttled between Guantanamo and the Pentagon from the summer of 2007 to the winter of 2009. I learned many lessons, but on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the most important lesson I can share is the most alarming: After so many years and so much sacrifice, nothing has changed.
Our greatest weakness remains today what it was 10 years ago, and what it was eight years before that, when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. We don’t understand Islam or Arab culture, and that ignorance prevents us from accurately predicting our relationship with Arab and Muslim countries and identifying our enemies.
Omar Ashmawy, staff director at the Office of Congressional Ethics. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
When asked by Politico in May of this year why he got into politics, his response fits his career up to that point….
“After eight years on active duty in the Air Force, I was ready for a change and I wanted to remain in public service. It was 2009, the OCE had just launched and it presented a way for me to stay in public service, to serve my country and help build something from the ground up. We help the House of Representatives uphold ethical standards by investigating allegations of misconduct by members, staff or officers of the House. This is a political city, but this is not a political job. There’s no doubt it’s tough work, but we have been able to do it with professionalism and a commitment to accuracy.”
…except for an incident in 2015 and his involving in a late-night brawl in Milford, Penn and the ongoing lawsuit of one of the top congressional ethics official who oversees investigations into misconduct by lawmakers. The complaint filed in federal court in Pennsylvania last month consisting of Mr. Ashmawy verbally abusing and physically assaulting women and using his federal position to influence local law enforcement.
The previously unreported lawsuit starts from a 2015 Valentine’s Day dinner and date. After taking his girlfriend to an upscale restaurant in Milford for a reported near $400 meal, the couple went to Milton’s Diminick Inn, a local bar for drinks. What followed in the crux of the lawsuit. With Ashmawy ending in a police car, bruised and bloodied and three others arrested for assaulting him. One of those arrested, Greg Martucci has filed a lawsuit suing Ashmawy concerning events of that evening.
What exactly led to the physical altercation is in dispute, but in police statements reviewed and reported by Foreign Policy, three women at the bar that night, including the bartender, Joey Lynn Smith, accuse Ashmawy of sexually harassing and physically assaulting them. Greg Martucci, said he witnessed Ashmawy act in “an extremely violent and belligerent” manner and was verbally abusive toward two women. Other allegations include Ashmawy being accused of “threatening to use his position as staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics to induce a criminal proceeding to be brought against Plaintiff and/or others,” according to the federal documents.
Dawn Jorgensen, one of the women Ashmawy is accused of harassing, said she saw Ashmawy sexually harass the bartender. He allegedly told her: “You’ll give me drinks, but you won’t f*** me,” and shouted at other female patrons according to The Times. This led to Jorgensen’s husband, John, taking him outside.
Christina Floyd, another woman at the bar, said she also saw Ashmawy verbally harass the bartender each time he ordered drinks.
“I am a 5-foot-3 woman who never knew this man. I was very scared of him and was afraid he’d come back around for weeks after,” Floyd wrote, according to Foreign Policy who first reported the lawsuit allegations.
Ashmawy has denied the allegations against him in court filings and statements to Foreign Policy.
“To be clear, I did not harass anyone that evening, physically or verbally,” he said. “To the contrary, I was the victim of a wholly unprovoked assault for which those responsible were investigated, arrested and charged. Any allegation to the contrary is unequivocally false.”
Ashmawy’s office conducts the preliminary investigations into allegations of misconduct in the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, deciding which cases to pursue or refer to the Committee on Ethics. He is named in congressional documents as the official who presented one of the investigations into John Conyers, the Democratic lawmaker from Michigan accused of sexual harassment, to the ethics committee for further action.
According to the LegiStorm site, Ashmawy earns $168,000 per year in his position, which has lead him to open probes into a number of powerful lawmakers.
In a letter drafted to Mr. Ashmawy on a separate matter sum up the OCE courseadequately concerning ethics code and violations… as does the Report on Standards of Official Conduct.
Violations of House Rule 23
House Rule 23, clause 1, states that “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” Clause 1 is the “most comprehensive provision” and was drafted to “have a deterrent effect against improper conduct and at the same time be capable of enforcement if violated.”12 The clause was intended to retain “the ability to deal with any given act or accumulation of acts which, in the judgment of the committee, are severe enough to reflect discredit on the Congress.”13
During its discussion of clause 1, the House Ethics Manual also refers to House Resolution 451, which requires the House Ethics Committee to either empanel an investigative subcommittee or explain why it has not within 30 days of a member being charged with any crime, misdemeanor or felony.14 The House Ethics Manual makes clear that the House Ethics Committee has “historically viewed clause 1 as encompassing violations of law and abuses of one’s official position.”15
In short, clauses 1 and 2 of House Rule 23 respectively require members to behave “at all times” in a manner that reflects creditably on the House of Representatives, and to abide by the spirit and the letter of the House Rules. Based on past precedent, physical assaults by members of Congress clearly do not reflect “creditably” on the House.
The Office of Congressional Ethics has not returned a call seeking comment on the incident and subsequent lawsuit.
Thomas Paine @Thomas1774Paine
BREAKING: Head of Congressional Ethics Office Sued for Abusing Position, Accused of Assaulting Women
12:44 PM – 14 Dec 2017 Twitter – Thomas Paine