The problem is that the investigation at UT didn’t reach any final conclusions. The investigator couldn’t prove Schwertner was at fault, but also couldn’t prove he was not. There is no evidence here to clear his name. In that way, it’s as though no investigation had taken place; Schwertner is in the same fix he was in after the allegations were known and before Johnny Sutton, a former U.S. attorney who is now in private practice, started digging around. The only publicly available part of his inquiry is a two-page executive summary. His conclusions might be worse than what he was sent to find out in the first place[.]
Schwertner’s continued presence in the Legislature will be a measure of the other senators’ confidence that this is, as Schwertner asserted in a news release, all behind them — that this is an isolated case that doesn’t reflect on the Senate in particular or the Legislature in general. They’re also betting that his standing as a public official had nothing to do with any of this — that it was a purely personal matter that didn’t depend on his official standing or power. And that the remaining questions about his behavior don’t reflect on the rest of them.
It comes at a particularly inopportune time, with a 140-day legislative session starting less than three weeks from now. All legislators are more closely watched when they’re actually in Austin doing work. The best situation for an alleged miscreant is to be out of sight and out of mind. That’s the opposite of what happens to lawmakers during a session.
If this was a closed file, the investigators might’ve been able to answer more of those lingering questions that would have allowed the Legislature to begin a new session without this latest distraction. Some examples:
- Who sent the messages in Schwertner’s name? Did Schwertner send it or did someone else?
- What device were the messages sent from? Who does it belong to?
- Where’s the full report?
- Why wasn’t this done in a way that could clear his name? And if that’s on him, as the investigator implies, why didn’t he cooperate and provide information to make his innocence apparent?
- The investigation said Schwertner gave the complainant his card with a cell phone number purchased from Hushed, an application that allows users to communicate via cell phones without revealing their actual cell phone numbers. Why?
- Why would someone going to that extent to disguise themselves give away their password for Hushed to a third party?
- Who is this third party (if there is one at all)? Why won’t Schwertner identify the person? Why did he or she have access to his Hushed account? Was that person’s phone used to send the messages?
“This unfortunate matter is now closed,” Schwertner said in a written statement sent to news media after the executive summary of Sutton’s report was made public. He got one letter wrong in that sentence, using a “W” where a “T” would be more apt.
This unfortunate matter is not closed.
See here for the background. As I suggested, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Schwertner is covering up for somebody, which raises even more questions. Ramsey is right that this matter is not closed, and that these and other questions will linger, not just over Schwertner but the whole Senate, throughout the session. It’s just that Schwertner has already faced the voters – who clearly did not have all of the information they could have had – and with the decline of the Capitol press corps, there’s not much of a mechanism for keeping a spotlight on these questions. There’s still a story out there, and I’m sure someone will continue to pursue it. But unless and until someone finds and publishes answers to these questions, this unfortunate matter will remain dormant. For Sen. Schwertner’s purposes, that’s good enough.