Some notes and quotes from debate on the ouster of Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, on Wednesday:
–“It is the Lord who appoints people to office, and it is He who takes them out… The Lord has already decided.” Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, sponsor of the resolution to expel Durham, during a House Republican Caucus meeting.
–“Let’s go up there and flush this commode.” Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, also during the Republican Caucus meeting.
Excerpt from the Nashville Post Politics report:
Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) and Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), both lawyers, attempted their best to cross-examine Durham as if he were on the witness stand. Lamberth asked Durham directly if some of the allegations in the AG’s report and other rumors were true, if he had sent explicit text messages or slept with an intern or a member of the House or a staff member of a Representative. Durham didn’t respond, and Lamberth pulled his questions in disgust.
Later, Stewart pushed an agitated Durham for over 20 minutes, going past the 15-minute cutoff mark with Harwell’s repeated permission. Stewart drilled down as to why Durham didn’t cooperate with the AG investigation.
“I’m an American citizen,” Durham said. “I don’t have to turn over my cell phone.”
Durham said the AG staff wouldn’t share what they wanted to question him about ahead of time.
“My experience is that when I conduct depositions, I don’t send questions ahead of time,” Stewart replied.
Stewart then pressed him on whether the FBI was investigating him for bribery. Durham said if he did know, he wouldn’t tell Stewart. Finally, Stewart pressed him on which allegations, specifically, were true in the AG’s report.
“Is there any allegation in the Attorney General’s report that you do admit to, a single one?” Stewart asked.
“I think there was something wrong with almost all of them, as far as factual. But there were some, where the gist, looking back, I think there was definitely some fault that I had, some ownership that I definitely needed to take. But it’s not the ones that were the salacious ones in the media,” Durham responded.
“Are you going to take ownership of anything?” Stewart asked more than once.
“This is not the forum to do it,” Durham said, adding, as he waved around a black portfolio, “You do not want me releasing some of the things that are in this binder!”
Excerpt from The Tennessean report:
Before Tuesday’s expulsion vote, the session was halted after Casada called for a recess that lasted almost 45 minutes.
“I’m asking the speaker if I can go into recess to remind the caucus that it is paramount to protect the Jane Does — the innocent women who are brave enough to come forward,” Casada said moments before the start of session.
Her voice breaking, Harwell asked the GOP caucus to support the motion from Lamberth to protect the identities of the women in the attorney general’s report who were afraid of retribution.
“Don’t do this to these women. Don’t you dare,” Harwell said.
Lamberth also called on the press not to print the names of any victims if Durham does mention them or try to release them.
“Please, for God’s sake, do not print anybody’s name. It is not right,” Lamberth said.
Press release from Tennessee Democratic Party
NASHVILLE, TENN. (September 13, 2016) – During the legislative hearing on Durham’s expulsion, questions were raised about illegal and unethical actions taken by other state representatives.
“Republican leadership perpetuated a toxic work environment for the women that work at the legislature, and questions regarding what they are still hiding need to be answered,” said Mary Mancini, Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, “The expulsion of Jeremy Durham was right and necessary, but questions remain about the inexcusable behavior of other elected officials. Speaker Harwell’s decision to end debate is yet another move to sweep things under the rug to protect herself and the GOP leadership in this election year.”
The Attorney General’s report noted several incidents involving unnamed legislators that revealed unethical and possibly illegal behavior. As Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) began to question the firing of a legislative staffer who was fired after reporting being sexually harassed by Durham, Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) abruptly cut his mic and swiftly moved to end debate on the matter altogether.
Mancini continued, “Where is the investigation into the firing of a victim of sexual harassment? Where is the investigation into the failure of legislators to report abuse that they were clearly aware of? Today’s legislative session left us with more questions than answers. Tennesseans are left to wonder what else the TNGOP is willing to sweep under the rug at the expense of victims.”
Press release from Tennessee Republican Party
NASHVILLE, Tenn.-September 13, 2016—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statement from Chairman Ryan Haynes on today’s proceedings in the Tennessee House of Representatives:
“I am saddened that all of my former colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, have been placed in this terrible position by the reprehensible misbehavior of one individual. I now look forward to building on the successes that Governor Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ramsey, Speaker Harwell, and our Republican Supermajorities have created for Tennessee.”