Trey Radel drops crisis team, adds top ethics lawyer

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Embattled U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, facing ethics investigation in the House of Representatives over cocaine possession charges, dropped his crisis communications team this week and added a top Washington ethics lawyer.

The Fort Myers Republican, returning to Capitol Hill this week, has brought on Wiley Rein’s Rob Walker as a consultant, Politico reports. Walker served as chief counsel and staff director for both Senate and House ethics panels. Radel, after finishing substance abuse rehab last month, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee due to his much-publicized drug use.

Radel dropped Republican communicators Ron Bonjean and Brian Walsh, hired after POLITICO reported that he faced cocaine possession charges, a first for any Congressional representative. Radel’s decision to part ways with his crisis management team was an amicable one, writes John Bresnahan and Anna Palmer of Politico.

Radel’s office declined to comment.

Radel has been on leave of absence from Congress since pleading guilty Nov. 20 to cocaine possession. After his D.C. court appearance, Radel entered a Naples, drug rehabilitation clinic just under 30 days, emerging with a pledge to “begin this process of rebuilding your trust and doing what you elected me to do.”

Radel is on one-year probation.

On Dec. 12, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to launch a special investigative team to examine the Radel case. Chairing the body are Reps. Charlie Dent and Yvette Clarke, who are ranking members of the special four-person panel. The remaining members are Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Janice Hahn.

The panel will decide whether Radel “violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities, with respect to conduct forming the basis for criminal charges of possession of cocaine in the District of Columbia, to which Representative Radel pled guilty on November 20, 2013.”

Afterwards, they will report findings to the full Ethics Committee.

Some conservative leaders in Radel’s Florida district — including former GOP Rep. Connie Mack — are not satisfied with Radel’s return to Congress. A few have expressed interest in running for Radel’s seat, with many others calling for his resignation.

A Florida homebuilder formed a super PAC to promote a candidate to take Radel on in an August primary, Politico reports. The super PAC has raised approximately $1 million so far.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.