Political drama in Nessel’s Flint moves
The current Democratic attorney general and the former GOP attorney general are not exactly drinking buddies. In fact, they are not much of anything other than being from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Normally, when one political party takes over from another, there is a civil transition of power, during which the code of conduct suggests that the outgoing AG meets personally with the successor.
Bill Schuette and Dana Nessel never met.
They did talk on the phone, but it’s unclear if they ever got beyond the perfunctory chat about how lousy the rainy weather is in our state. Mr. Schuette says he tried to reach out to her, but, apparently, his arms were not long enough.
So, against that chilly backdrop, it should come as no shock to anyone in this town that Ms. Nessel deep-sixed the Flint water crisis investigation launched under the auspices of Mr. Schuette, basically declaring it null-and-void.
In a not-so-warm-and-fuzzy news release, the current AG basically concluded that the Schuette team botched the probe and, now, the state will start from scratch to pin blame on no one or anyone for their role in the lead poisoning of Flint.
Nessel reports that, even before she took office, she had reservations about what Mr. Schuette was doing and, once in office, she even tried to salvage what he and others had done, but in the end, she was willing chuck it all.
The release suggested that the Schuette guys, including lead prosecutor and all-around tough guy Todd Flood, had shared information with attorneys from would-be suspects in the case and, on top of that, they missed “20 million pieces of data” that was never considered in the case. Based on that, Ms. Nessel concludes, the only fair thing to do is reboot and try to get it right this time.
In the process, she dismissed the charges against eight defendants, including the former state health director, Nick Lyon, and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, as they faced manslaughter charges in the death of one Flint resident who had Legionnaires’ disease. Ms. Nessel advises those two and the other six they should not be breathing a sigh of relief, because her new and supposedly better investigation could dragnet them back into court.
Needless to say, the news of the unprecedented move rocked this town. First, the decision was actually made by someone Ms. Nessel hired to conduct the criminal probe, but, even so, Ms. Nessel endorsed the decision. Second, the move meant that the three-year review under Mr. Schuette was pretty much for naught, and the price tag of $30 million, if not down the drain, was certainly only worth pennies on the dollar.
And what about the poor folks in Flint who have been demanding justice?
Ms. Nessel advised them that justice delayed does not mean justice denied. But, in what some felt was a insensitive act, she delayed until June 28 any kind of meeting with Flint residents to explain her actions. So much for placing their concerns at the top of her to-do list.
It didn’t take long for her non-drinking buddy to chime in. Bill Schuette offered up a news release of his own that did not address the specifics of this decision but was aimed at defending his team as “top shelf” and professional from start to finish.
Special Prosecutor Todd Flood and his right-hand man, former FBI investigator Andy Arena, took to the airwaves to set the record straight.
As for sharing data with attorneys representing possible suspects, Mr. Flood told WJR, “I think that’s not accurate.”
Mr. Arena reports weeding through 20 million pieces of data “is from cave man days. That’s not how it is done, anymore.”
Mr. Flood echoes that: “I don’t think that is true, either.”
As for the notion that, somehow, Mr. Flood and Mr . Arena were politically motivated to help Mr. Schuette, who was running for governor in the middle of all this, they deny it and, Mr. Arena adds, “I’m not going to question what she did, but don’t trash my reputation while you’re doing it.”
Of course, now the speculation is, will this new investigation drag the former Gov. Rick Snyder into all this?
Mr. Arena reflects, “If the evidence would have led to him, we would have no qualms about charging him.”
But is there new evidence that could implicate Mr. Snyder?
We’re about to find out, one way or the other.