Henry Cuellar has never been shy with the D.C. Capitol press. The ten-term congressman from Laredo is known to be a great source to reporters, both on the record and off. That is, until he was indicted last week on fourteen charges alleging political corruption involving the Azerbaijani government and a bank in Mexico. 

Cuellar skipped votes at the Capitol on Monday, returning Tuesday, when he slipped past the TV news crews waiting for him in and around the U.S. House of Representatives. The glad-handing centrist Democrat typically walks to votes alone, often holding court or taking phone calls in the Speaker’s Lobby just loud enough for reporters to hear. Not anymore. On Wednesday, Cuellar walked to the Capitol from his office in the Rayburn House Office Building, ten to fifteen minutes away, surrounded by three of his Hill aides, who let reporters know that the congressman wasn’t taking questions about “the recent news” out of South Texas. That’s where Cuellar and his wife, Imelda, are allegedly caught up in a $25,000-per-month bribery scheme benefiting a state-run oil company in Azerbaijan, a nation with a complex lobbying operation in Texas, where few Azerbaijanis actually live.

A half hour before the vote was called, Cuellar’s press secretary emerged with an offer: the congressman would speak with me. But only about music. Back in Cuellar’s office, which is painted navy blue, with twenty bills signed into law by American presidents affixed to the wall, the representative wouldn’t comment on “the recent news” but noted that Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is his all-time favorite song. 

He recounted his experience controlling the aux. On a congressional delegation to Argentina, Cuellar said, Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole (the current chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee) made him DJ a game of pool after he turned down a cigar. “I don’t smoke,” Cuellar said, as he scrolled through his iTunes library alphabetically by artist. And, he wanted to be clear, this was not a “pool party.” “They were playing pool.”

Swiping past Barry White, the Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, and Cyndi Lauper, Cuellar explained his DJing philosophy:  “A lot of people listen to albums,” he said. “Not me. I do songs.”

“Time After Time” is Cuellar’s track of choice by Lauper. He pressed play so I could listen. “I do songs,” Cuellar repeated, scrolling further: Elvis Presley, Fine Young Cannibals, singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. 

He eventually landed on a Frank Sinatra tune. “Do you know this one?” he asked. It was “Fly Me to the Moon,” and I told him as much. “Correct.” He then moved to the Jackson 5. “What about this one?” I again answered correctly: “I’ll Be There.” 

“I don’t have albums,” Cuellar repeated again, opening a Dolly Parton track. “It’s ‘Jolene,’ ” I offered. “See, I like the old songs that have a story,” he replied. “I do songs . . .” 

I saw no Spanish-language artists, but Cuellar could, with effort, name Vicente Fernández as a preferred singer en español. I asked him if he had a favorite Selena song. “No,” he laughed. “Do you remember when she tried to speak Spanish and she couldn’t speak Spanish?” 

Cuellar stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, but he says he will remain on the Appropriations Committee—while on a $100,000 bond in Texas. Meanwhile, some of Cuellar’s former staffers and associates are starting to sing: two political strategists have agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with Cuellar to launder bribes.