The scandal involving Clayton Kelly and his alleged co-conspirators has moved so rapidly, that it’s difficult to pick a time where things slow down long enough to write something meaningful. Generally, when the news moves so rapidly, Y’allPolitics just tracks it via our newsfeed. Our Senate 2014 feed has a categorized listing of every story throughout the entire race since October and is a great resource. Also, our Twitter feed (where we generally tag everything relating to the race with #mssen) is a real time way you can keep up with the race down the homestretch.
At Y’allPolitics, this isn’t our first rodeo on national scandals that move at lightning speed. However, we’ve learned a few lessons over the years. One of the big ones is that people in and around a scandal shouldn’t antagonize law enforcement or prosecutors. That’s especially true during an investigation. That’s why it came as a tremendous shock yesterday to see the Chris McDaniel campaign put out an email to supporters basically claiming that DA Michael Guest had absolved the campaign of any wrongdoing in the Clayton Kelly scandal.
As background, the McDaniel braintrust cited a Thursday WAPT story done by WAPT Scott Simmons and claimed absolution from involvement in the scandal. Simmons paraphrased Guest’s response on a question about whether there was any direct evidence of McDaniel campaign involvement in the Kelly conspiracy this way, “Michael Guest, the district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, told Simmons that he doesn’t believe anyone with the McDaniel campaign is involved.”
Well, that obviously didn’t go over so well with Team Guest. Within hours of McDaniel’s release, on Thursday night, Guest had a statement particularly refuting the McDaniel camp’s assessment that showed up in the Washington Post.
When asked whether he is investigating McDaniel and his advisers, Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said “no persons or persons have been cleared.”
A local news outlet reported earlier Tuesday that Guest does not believe there is a potential connection to the McDaniel campaign. McDaniel’s campaign seized on the report and McDaniel issued a statement.
“This confirms what I’ve said all along,” McDaniel said. “As the District Attorney has said, our campaign had nothing to do with this sad incident.”
Pushing back on that report and McDaniel’s statement, Guest said Thursday evening, “I want it to be clear that the investigation is ongoing.”
The Madison, Miss., Police Department is “working diligently to gather and analyze evidence in this case,” he said. “Until the investigation is complete, no person or persons have been cleared.”
That’s what made it all the more shocking that on Saturday afternoon, the McDaniel campaign again cited the Thursday WAPT story with specific reference to the Guest statement, which was not a quote as they made it appear in the campaign email. Here’s the block from the email.
What you need to know
• My campaign had nothing to do with that video – period.
• Blogger’s attorney: “Clayton Kelly’s actions were NOT part of any conspiracy.”
• John Mary’s attorney: “My client has no connection with the McDaniel campaign.”
• District Attorney Michael Guest “doesn’t believe anyone with the McDaniel campaign is involved.”
The line about “Clayton Kelly’s actions were NOT part of any conspiracy” was from a Monday WLBT story that the campaign cited. We all now know that in fact it appears very much that Clayton Kelly’s actions were very much a part of a conspiracy as three days letter, three other men were arrested . . . and charged with that very conspiracy! For the McDaniel campaign to put this out on Saturday is not only intentionally misleading, but it continues to create the impression that they are scared to death of this thing.
Then to put words in a prosecutors mouth (Michael Guest) after he went out of his way to debunk the initial impression the campaign presented is just stupid to the point of being laughable. Complicating matters, McDaniel himself is an attorney. To have this intentionally misleading email go out under his name and signature presents real issues. From a political campaign and “telling the truth” perspective, it’s malpractice. From a human perspective, it seems downright disturbing. It once again reinforces my ongoing impression that McDaniel has surrounded himself with incompetence and that he and his team are not “ready for prime time”. They appear to be willing to say anything, “facts be damned”, in order to try and win (or not lose) a news cycle. So much for principle.
Based on news reports, those arrested have been cooperative and information gleaned from that cooperation has led to other arrests. Based on that, it appears that this thing goes at least to another circle of people. Where? Don’t know yet. But there are some interesting things happening in the social media sphere and my bet is that investigators will want to get to the bottom of it. What I do know is this . . . Michael Guest is smart as a whip. He doesn’t “swing and miss” and the fact that he knows the national spotlight is on this makes me all the more certain that he feels like he has his ducks in a row on this thing.
Next week will be interesting. But no matter what happens on June 3, I think we will be reading about this scandal in the weeks to come.
As stated on multiple occasions, the author of this story has made a reportable contribution in this race. Please factor that into your reading of this piece.