By Paul Gable
SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell held a press conference yesterday in Columbia in what appeared to be an attempt to regain control of the message on the ongoing ethics investigation into his use of campaign funds.
Speaking approximately one hour before the House was gaveled into its opening 2014 session, Harrell appeared to believe he could, somehow, stop the ethics investigation against him from going to the Grand Jury.
Harrell said he was “shocked and blindsided” by the news the investigation was being referred to the Grand Jury. He said both the attorney general’s office and SLED continuously told Harrell and his attorneys that they found, in the course of the investigation, “nothing that concerned them”.
“I fully expected that any day now, there would be a release from the AG’s office stating the investigation was over and there was no factual reason to pursue it any further,” Harrell said. “To have that expectation and then get blindsided by the events of yesterday was more than just disappointment.”
Harrell further said he did not believe it was a coincidence that the statement by the AG’s office that the case was being referred to the Grand Jury happened on the eve of this year’s legislative session.
“I believe it was intended to inflict political damage on me,” Harrell said.
The speaker was very good to that point in his opening statement, but for the next six and one-half minutes of the press conference, he appeared to be stumbling.
On at least six different occasions, in remarks and in answering reporters’ questions, Harrell called for the attorney general to release the report of the SLED investigation to the public.
Harrell has to understand that isn’t going to happen until after the Grand Jury is seated, hears the evidence and decides whether to bring an indictment or not.
Harrell should also understand that it is perfectly legal for the police to lie to you during the course of an investigation, just as it is perfectly legal for politicians to lie to the public.
On several different occasions, Harrell avoided questions about why his office would not release records about his expenses pursuant to FOIA requests already filed with his office.
One thing should be clear to Harrell at this point – he is not in control of this situation any longer, if he ever was.