Jones let documents tell Strange story

Published 1:01 am Saturday, August 26, 2017

Perhaps it is because he is an attorney by trade, and accustomed to having an exhibit on the table.

Or maybe his parents, like mine, counseled him, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Whatever his thinking, Rep. Mike Jones Jr., R-Andalusia, said a whole lot at Tuesday’s Chamber-sponsored legislative luncheon simply by seeing that an exhibit of sorts was left at the seat of each attendee.

And the six pages – copying three pieces of correspondence and a meeting schedule – spoke volumes.

Jones recently was appointed chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, but during the last legislative session, he still chaired the Judiciary Committee. In that role, it fell his lot to organize and lead impeachment proceedings against then-Gov. Robert Bentley.

The first document shared Tuesday was a letter Jones wrote to then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on June 7, 2016. The letter recapped the legislature’s vote for articles of impeachment against Bentley, and plans to conduct an investigation as part of that process.

“I understand that it is likely that your office is also investigating conduct by Governor Bentley, his staff, and others,” the letter said. “It is also likely that your investigation and ours will have a number of significant issues and witnesses in common. I believe it would be both prudent and beneficial for us to share information from our investigations and cooperate to the fullest extent possible.”

The letter also suggests that the two meet to discuss the request.

The second document was a copy of a Nov. 1, 2016, event from Mr. Jones’ calendar: noting a scheduled meeting with Strange on Nov. 1, 2016. The description said the meeting also would include two House members and two AG’s office investigators.

From the next piece of correspondence, one could infer that at least some of the people on the schedule for Nov. 1 participated in the meeting. Because two days later, on Thurs., Nov. 3, the attorney general’s executive assistant emailed a letter from Strange to Jones’s assistant.

The AG wrote, “In your letter of June 7, 2016, you informed me that the work of the House Judiciary Committee and the investigative work of my office might intersect with certain issues and witnesses. I appreciate your willingness to efficiently and effectively communicate with my office.

“At this time, I believe it would be prudent and beneficial to delay the work of the House Judiciary Committee,” Strange wrote. “I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed. My staff will continue to coordinate with the Special Counsel for the Committee, Jack Sharman as necessary and appropriate.”

The final correspondence shared was a memo from Jones to his committee members, updating them on the Strange’s request that they pause the investigation.

You know the rest.

Bentley appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate in February. Not long after that, Strange said, “We have never said — and I want to make this clear — we have never said in our office that we are investigating the governor.”

No word on what he was referencing in November when he asked the House to stop their investigation into Bentley, his alleged girlfriend, and others.

Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee produced about 3,000 pages of documentation. The Ethics Commission found that Bentley had violated the law, and Bentley eventually resigned rather than face impeachment or a trial, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

There was a lot Mr. Jones didn’t say on Tuesday.

He didn’t have to. The documents told the story he wanted us to hear.


Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.