Conservative journalist Charles Johnson, as he has so often over the past month, used his Twitter account on Sunday to reveal the latest development in the allegations of vote-buying down in Mississippi.
Once again, the development involved himself. Johnson posted a photo showing a subpoena he’d received to appear before a grand jury. The tweet also appeared to defy explicit instructions that the subpoena should not be disclosed.
“You are not to disclose the existence of this subpoena,” read the document from the Lauderdale County, Miss. Circuit Court. “Any such disclosure could impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.”
Johnson later deleted the tweet, which he said was done at the behest of his legal counsel, but the photo was preserved by Clarion-Ledger newspaper reporter Sam R. Hall. (Johnson has publicly threatened to sue Hall for defamation over an article published by the newspaper late last month.)
The subpoena (posted below) commanded Johnson to provide the following when he appears in court on Sept. 22:
“ANY AND ALL RECORDS, regarding the interview of Stevie Fielder and/or regarding the payment of an interview fee to Stevie Fielder.”
“ANY AND ALL RECORDS, regarding your conversations and dealings with John Rhodes and/or Noel Fritsch.”
It was Fielder who served as the source for Johnson’s widely disputed story last month about Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) campaign allegedly bribing black voters in the Republican runoff for U.S. Senate against tea party challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
Fielder told investigators last week that he was paid by Fritsch, a spokesperson for McDaniel, to give the interview to Johnson. A self-proclaimed minister from Meridian, Miss., Fielder had already walked back his original claim that he was involved in the purported vote-buying scheme.
Johnson did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on Monday.
Johnson has said from the beginning that he paid Fielder, and he insisted to TPM last week that he paid for the text messages cited in the original report. (Fritsch also backed up that account.)
Moreover, Johnson told TPM he believes that Fielder was “intimidated” by investigators from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s (D) office.
It’s unclear why Rhodes, chairman of the South Mississippi Tea Party, was named in the subpoena.
In a subsequent tweet, Johnson said that he scrubbed the subpoena at the advice of his counsel.
@bamaredskins I took it down on advice of counsel
— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) August 10, 2014