Angry, indignant AG Wilson says Pascoe chose politics over proper procedure

Wilson, backed by former attorneys generals Charlie Condon and Henry McMaster (Travis Medlock is off camera to the left)

Wilson, backed by former attorneys generals Charlie Condon and Henry McMaster (Travis Medlock is off camera to the left)

An angry, indignant Attorney General Alan Wilson, backed silently by three former attorneys general, said this afternoon that Special Prosecutor David Pascoe would have had the State Grand Jury investigation he says he wants if only he had met with Wilson’s office Friday as requested.

Instead, Wilson said, Pascoe chose to file a complaint about Wilson with the state Supreme Court, and apparently tip the media off that he had filed it.

Throughout his press availability Wednesday, Wilson insisted that a State Grand Jury investigation can only be called for by a joint request from the SLED chief and the attorney general, and the fact that he recused himself from the case does not change that requirement. (He also drew a distinction between his own voluntary recusal in “an abundance of caution” and involuntary “disqualification” by a judge.)

He said he stands ready to give that ratification for an investigation at the request of an “untainted” prosecutor — which he does not consider Pascoe to be.

“I’m here today to say that not only do I support a state grand jury investigation, but I’m here to tell you there will be a state grand jury investigation,” he said at the outset of the presser. “But it has to be done lawfully, and by someone who is not tainted.”

Wilson recounted the history of his involvement with Pascoe, going back to “the legal battle of our lives” trying to prosecute former House Speaker Bobby Harrell in 2014.

He said “Solicitor Pascoe was not my first choice, nor my second, nor my third, nor my fourth, nor my fifth…” because “The solicitors wanted no part of this case… they saw the living hell I was going through…”

“I had reservations, he said, “about Solicitor Pascoe’s temperament.” He said he was also concerned because someone related to Harrell had worked in Pascoe’s office.

In the end, he found the charges that Harrell pled to “disappointing,” but said “we were tired, and we just wanted to move on.”

As Pascoe continued investigating possible legislative corruption, Wilson said, the AG’s office had concerns about how Pascoe was conducting it a number of times, but let it pass.

When Pascoe tried to call for state grand jury involvement, “We had concerns… we wanted to fix his mistake…” So, he said, Pascoe was invited to meet with the AG’s office on Good Friday.

Pascoe declined to meet, and instead filed with the Supreme Court his petition for a writ of mandamus saying that Wilson was acting improperly.

Wilson said this document contained as “outright lie” — that he had sought to impede the investigation. He insisted that “at no time has anyone on my staff” done such a thing.

Wilson was mad about that. He was also mad that John Monk knew to show up at the court to get that petition Monday. When Wilson invited questions at the end of his statement and the first one came from John, he said he would answer the question if John would tell him how he knew the document had been filed. (Moments later, he apologized to John for being so confrontational.)

In the end, Wilson’s position is that he will ratify a request from an “untainted” prosecutor. But with Pascoe insisting Wilson can’t fire him and 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson declining to take over unless there is a definitive ruling on the matter of Pascoe’s firing, it’s unclear who that untainted prosecutor might be.

To all his critics, Wilson issued a challenge: “Keep doing what you’re doing… You do your worst, I will do my best.”

Anyway, that’s what Wilson had to say. This isn’t a complete news story until we hear from Pascoe and others. And we likely won’t know where all this is going until the Supreme Court makes a determination. For that matter, had I been in the room instead of watching this on a live feed from WIS, I’d have had some questions of people in the room.

But it was an extraordinary live performance by a very angry AG. When I find a complete video recording, I will embed it. (HERE’S THE VIDEO.)


20 thoughts on “Angry, indignant AG Wilson says Pascoe chose politics over proper procedure

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    For a moment there I thought I had video, on the WIS site.

    But I couldn’t get it to play (although the ad in front of it played faithfully each time I refreshed). I complained to WIS via Twitter, and they took the video off the page.

    Hopefully, they’ll have it fixed soon…

  2. Tim

    Question 1:

    “As Pascoe continued investigating possible legislative corruption, Wilson said, the AG’s office had concerns about how Pascoe was conducting it a number of times, but let it pass.”

    How did he know how Pascoe was conducting the investigation if he’d recused himself and his office from involvement in the investigation?

    Question 2:
    By calling the prosecutor “tainted” hasn’t AG Wilson given potential defense attorneys a perfect argument for throwing out any evidence obtained in Pascoe’s investigation?

    Question 3:
    How in hell did they get Charlie Condon to remain silent when surrounded by cameras?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Question 1: As I recall, he was concerned that he kept seeing “nuggets” show up in news stories that could only have come from an informed insider (such as Pascoe) and which should not have been leaked.

      2. I suppose. He says the purpose of calling for the meeting Friday was to save Pascoe from making a mistake that tainted the investigation (calling a grand jury investigation without proper authorization). “I was trying to save him from himself.”

      3. Maybe that was a Charlie Condon robot.

      1. Tim

        That news conference didn’t compare to Sanford’s implosion after returning from his hike, but it was still one of the more remarkable things I’ve seen in 30 years of S.C. politics.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, it was something.

          It was a good deal more… focused… than Sanford’s confessional ramble. But that’s not surprising. Alan’s a more focused guy…

  3. Mark Stewart

    It’s highly unusual for someone like an attorney general to recuse themselves from an investigation midway through. Or at least it seems it would be so to me.

    Interestingly, Wilson didn’t say that the facts had changed about his recusal as the investigation continued to unfold. So I think it safe to presume those conflicts still exist to this day.

    I think Alan Wilson needs to either provide a public explanation of his conflict of interest – if it is no longer so in his mind – or, if the situation remains as he felt it was earlier, stay out of the investigation. It would seem to me that rubber stamping the solicitor’s – and SLED’s – request for a state grand jury was the only option open to Alan Wilson. Believing that he has a right to be the “recused” gatekeeper strikes me as the obstruction Pascoe portrayed to the court.

    Wilson has quite a bit more explaining to do; in more measured tones and with a greater degree of voracity.

  4. bud

    Ok, I’m really confused. Either Wilson is recused or he’s not. Maybe there’s some legal mumbo jumbo that I’m not familiar with but Wilson really should stay completely out of it at this point. Or it least that’s how it seems.

    But on a more fundamental level doesn’t all this reflect badly on the voters? Seems like the folks in the general assembly are playing the voters for a bunch of toadies until some type of legal intervention catches up with them. Why do voters keep returning the Bobby Harrells and Hugh Leathermans to office?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Someone — someone with the kind of understanding of the law in this arena that Cindi Scoppe has — needs to do a good explainer on Wilson’s key point: That the statute clearly designates the AG as the second person who must sign off on a state grand jury investigation, and does NOT allow for a designee to perform that duty.

      From what I’m hearing, but I’m not an expert, he’s on solid ground on that.

      It’s also my understanding that the kind of “recusal” we’re talking about here may be something that is completely revocable by him. But I can’t say that authoritatively.

      It would be good to know what kind of circumstances we’re talking about that caused Wilson to back away and let McIntosh take the lead on this. He has the air of a man kicking himself for having been overcautious, thereby giving Pascoe a “recusal” card to throw in his face.

      That’s a question in my mind, but on the whole I thought Wilson made his case well, and I can easily see the cause of his anger.

      Now I want to know whether Pascoe can make an equally or more persuasive case for his position….

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Maybe there’s some legal mumbo jumbo that I’m not familiar with…

      Yeah, we got lots of that. In fact, there’a a whole semester on that in law school. Legal mumbo jumbo 405 is the class, I believe. 🙂

      Seriously though, I’m not even really sure what to make of all this. From what I can tell, it seems like Wilson recused himself to “avoid the appearance of impropriety” which is a higher standard than an actual (or even potential) conflict of interest. I think it’s the highest possible bar, by which I mean, you get a recusal simply because you don’t even want to appear like you’re doing something improper, even if you’re actually all good.

      But I hear what Wilson is saying about him having to sign the paper to authorize the grand jury. As long as he’s fine to do so, then, I think that’s not a big problem. I think his beef is with Pascoe, who (in his opinion) is mucking things up.

      My complete guess on all this is that Wilson wants the investigation to go forward, has no actual conflict, but is seeing Pascoe do things which compromise the investigation, and now he’s wanting a different prosecutor to do the job better.

      Complete guess. Could be totally wrong. I’m just a lowly civil litigator, and all this stuff is way above my pay grade.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, as I said, the story’s not complete until we hear from Pascoe. The first question I would want to ask him would be, “Why did you decline to meet with the AG’s office Friday, and instead file the petition against him and go public with your accusations?”

    He may have a good answer for that. One I can’t think of, not being a lawyer. Perhaps HE thought he would be “tainted” by such a meeting. But being a layman and a pretty straightforward guy, I would have met with the AG’s people, if nothing else, as a test. If they simply wanted to give him proper authorization for calling the grand jury, as Wilson says, then great. If they DID want to squelch his investigation, then he would have more evidence for his claim.

    Unfortunately, he apparently declined that opportunity with John Monk:

    Reached later, Pascoe declined comment, saying only, “The courtroom is the appropriate place for my remarks.”

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    And then, once we’re past this contretemps, I hope to learn the substance of this investigation. What rottenness has yet to be revealed at the State House?

    And I hope this spitting match doesn’t keep us from finding out…

  7. Mark Stewart

    The parallels between Bobby Harrells’s press conferences about Alan Wilson and his own yesterday afternoon were striking. The stilted language, ad hominem attacks, disparagement, deflection, insinuation… all on ripe display. That’s a remarkable turn-about. This was more the performance of someone who had (has) something to hide, then it was of a person who has been actually/procedurally wronged.

    John Monk: I would expect he would have a well developed network of sources around Columbia; and also the benefit of all the people who believe some issues demand an open hearing in the press – and the political spotlight. I would also imagine that there are some people who, for various reasons, keep a weather eye toward State Supremem Court filings – especially the incendiary ones. In fact, I would be shocked if there were not. Insinuating that Pascoe must be the leak is politically convenient, but nothing more. It is entirely possible the leaks have come from SLED, or even from the AG’s own office. The point is, it really just doesn’t matter. Water seeks its own level and the truth always comes out.

  8. Doug Ross

    Who from the AG’s office contacted The State to try and get them to hold off on the story? I don’t think that was mentioned in the article in The State.

    This is what shows on The State’s timeline of events:

    11:50 a.m.: A Supreme Court official contacts the newspaper and asks it not to publish any more about the document. The official also asks The State not to publish the petition. The newspaper declines, telling the official the story is of high public interest and that the document was obtained legally and openly and that the newspaper paid $13.40 in copying costs for it.

    Read more here:

    Let me praise The State for their efforts on this. This is what I expect a newspaper to do when covering a story.

  9. Jeff Mobley

    As the SC GOP presidential primary results were coming in, McMaster stood behind Trump during Trump’s remarks. Condon stood behind Cruz during Cruz’s remarks. Yesterday, they both stood behind Wilson during Wilson’s remarks.

    The implication here is obvious, and it is this: I have no idea what to make of all of this, and yet I still wanted to post a comment.

  10. Pingback: Ex-Speaker Harrell is once again in the public eye, via social media | ADCO

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