In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Everyone Is Blaming Everyone Else For Mississippi Courthouse Caper

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AP Photo / George Clark

Smith, in an interview with the Associated Press, said that the person that let the three McDaniel supporters into the courthouse, where the ballots are stored, was an elected official.

"I can confirm that it was a county employee," Smith said, but refused to identify who the county employee was.

The supporters that went to the courthouse (and got locked in) were Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane, McDaniel coalitions director Scott Brewster, and McDaniel supporter Rob Chambers. The McDaniel campaign has claimed the three were sent to the courthouse after ballot counting had stopped to monitor the election process and that a uniformed official let them into the building.

Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham, who asked for Smith to conduct an investigation into the incident, said he had been briefed by Smith on Tuesday. Graham said Smith was briefing all the county supervisors ahead of publicly releasing his findings.

"It is a Hinds County elected official," Graham told TPM. "The official holds the position of Constable."

TPM then asked if the official was Jon Lewis, a McDaniel supporter who told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he was the one being investigated for helping the McDaniel supporters into the building. Graham refused to "confirm or deny" whether Lewis was the one Smith identified as helping the trio in.

Lewis denied that he was the one who helped the trio in.

"Also-one million-percent it was not me," Lewis told the Mississippi newspaper. "I've talked to the DA. I think that's their assumption. But no one let them in. The damned door was jammed, and that's how they got in."

But Graham also told TPM that the constable who let the trio in was definitely not one of the four other Hinds County constables.

"We have some specifics, this is not a guess," Graham said. "This is not an investigation where anything is, I guess you would say, insinuated or guessed upon or inferred. The District Attorney is very specific in his investigation. He was very specific in his briefing to me. He does have good reason to say what he's saying in his investigation."

Lewis told the Clarion Ledger that he called the McDaniel campaign at roughly 10:30 p.m. to urge them to go to the courthouse to monitor the ballot counting process, but then went home afterward. The trio reportedly entered the courthouse around 2 a.m., according to the Associated Press.

Lewis also told the newspaper that he's conducted his own investigation of the incident in order to clear the McDaniel supporters once and for all.

"What they told me was that they talked to a Jackson police officer across the street," Lewis said. "He came over and said he didn't have access, but 'look, that door's propped open.' They went in, and the door closed behind them."

TPM had previously reached out to both the Hinds County Sheriff's Department and the Jackson police about the incident. The sheriff's office has flatly denied that officers helped the trio in and the Jackson police said officers for their service are not regularly at the courthouse that late at night.

The runoff between McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate is on June 24.

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.