Rep. Cori Bush defended hiring her husband as the Justice Department has opened an investigation into her alleged misuse of government funds intended to pay for her security.
Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, has spent more than $500,000 on her own private security while publicly advocating for the defund the police movement. Among the people receiving cash was her husband, Cortney Merritts, who has pocketed more than $120,000 in payments since Bush added him to her campaign’s payroll in January 2022.
Bush joined MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” with Joy Reid on Wednesday for a friendly interview that began with the liberal host saying they would talk about the scandal for “just a moment.”
“I want to start with the fact that the independent Congressional Ethics Office cleared this matter,” Reid said. “How did it then proceed to an investigation by the DOJ?”
Bush said the person who made the complaint urged multiple agencies to investigate, and more than one obliged. Reid then pivoted to Merritts.
“Your husband — his name is Cortney Merritts. He’s a military veteran,” she said. “Why was he the choice that you made in terms of your personal security?”
Bush said there were “a lot of issues” retaining good security staffers until her husband stepped up.
“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 not 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 said.
“So, what was happening was Cortney would fill in, he would volunteer, and sometimes he would even, you know, even when he was there and they were working, he would say, ‘Hey, you should be standing over here and you should be doing that,’” Bush continued. “He was volunteering a lot of his time, and then we had someone who was kind of leading the group, leading the team, who could no longer do it. One day just called and said, ‘I won’t be back for three months.’ It left me in a position, there was no way I could manage a security team plus the work that I was doing, and so he was able to pick up that slack and not only was he able to pick it up, he could handle all of it.”
Bush then said her husband was an air assault soldier in 101st Airborne and insisted he was qualified for the gig.
“He had already worked for other companies working security, even as supervisor, so this was in his lane,” Bush said.
Reid added that he is “obviously somebody you trust” and noted that Bush has been threatened in the past before moving on. Media industry website Mediaite labeled the interview a “softball.”
Bush’s campaign’s payroll marked payments to Merritts as “security” payments before switching the description to “wage expenses” in April.
Bush has previously insisted the notion that she misused campaign funds to pay for personal security services is “simply not true” and she has “complied with all applicable laws and House rules – and will continue to prioritize the rules that govern us as federal elected officials.”
Bush married Merritts in February 2023.
Fox News’ Brianna Herlihy, Joe Schoffstall and Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.