I was glad to see Cindi Scoppe’s column Sunday, in which she spelled out more clearly what I thought I knew about the Wilson/Pascoe contretemps: That as hard as it might be for the casual observer to see (particularly given Wilson’s emotional presser), the attorney general seems to be on the right side of the law in this.
As Cindi wrote:
There are three major issues here: Did Mr. Pascoe have the legal authority to initiate a State Grand Jury investigation, or did he need Mr. Wilson’s authorization? Did Mr. Wilson have the legal authority to remove Mr. Pascoe from the case? And was Mr. Wilson justified in removing Mr. Pascoe? That last question is entirely different from whether it was legal…
And as you find from reading the rest of her piece, her answers are:
- No, Pascoe did not have that authority; Wilson has to sign off on a State Grand Jury initiation. The law doesn’t allow the AG to delegate that, however he may recuse himself from any other involvement in a case.
- Yes, of course Wilson has the authority to remove Pascoe and assign someone else. The attorney general is the boss of the solicitors. As Cindi notes, “recusal is a voluntary thing, left entirely to the discretion of the prosecutor. In fact, when judges recuse themselves, it’s not uncommon for them to later unrecuse themselves.” When it comes to appointing and firing special prosecutors, recusal is neither here nor there; it does not vacate the AG’s constitutional authority.
- Finally, on the judgment call of removing Pascoe, Cindi is less certain — but she doesn’t doubt the purity of Wilson’s intentions: “In his mind, he had to remove Mr. Pascoe — not to stymie the investigation but to salvage it. I’m not certain that was necessary, but I believe that he believed it was.”
Personally, on that last point, it seems that Pascoe’s insubordination demanded his removal — if Wilson’s account is accurate. That is, if Pascoe did indeed refuse to meet with the AG’s office to get proper authorization for a State Grand Jury investigation, choosing instead to launch an attack on the attorney general.
But then, we’ve yet to hear Pascoe’s defense of his actions on Good Friday…
So play out Cindi’s points one and two: If the AG may (i) withhold rubber-stamping the State Grand Jury initiation when he has recused himself for a conflict of interest related to a criminal investigation and (ii) the AG may replace at will designated special prosecutor(s), then do we not have a situation where an AG could continue to stymie an investigation by withholding his signature and replacing special prosecutors when they appear to be making progress – until everyone just gives up and goes sulking away. Justice thwarted.
Is this not the situation Alan Wilson (correctly) railed against when he said no man (Harrell) is above the law? Here we have the makings of a situation where the AG is – or could – play God (or the Devil); just as the Speaker of the House did. Wilson’s response to this when the shoe was on the other foot was to state that no office holder may hide behind legislative authority to fend off justice.
That standard would seem to hold here for himself as well; everyone deserves their day in court before an impartial judge and jury. Whether Pascoe was insubordinate or Wilson is thwarting the investigation is an issue that deserves to be taken up by the Supreme Court. Even South Carolina’s Constitution is based upon the idea of checks and balances – most especially with regard to executive fiat.
Behind the scenes, Wilson’s staffer was trying to ramp up the smear campaign on Pascoe.
If you dig below the surface, every one of these politicians is ethically challenged and driven by a quest for power, influence, and money.
Yes, Doug, but it is even more a question of degree. Everyone operates from self-interest; it’s just good when the adjective “enlightened” can precede self-interest.
These most recent relevations of the “taint” being an orchestrated political smear campaign negates any sense of enlightenment. Though circumstantial, this is pretty damning stuff for Alan Wilson. As was his too hasty, politicized press conference.
We don’t need to get below the surface to see this. Alan Wilson is clearly on the run.