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: Email from Bernie Ellis--"[T]he only threat that existed was between Hargett's ears (and there's lots of room for imaginary threats there)."
Newly installed Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett sicked the TBI on a political opponent on a trumped-up charge of making a "terrorist threat." The case is now closed, the TBI having found no justification for Hargett's complaint. Yes, it matters who governs.
Bernie Ellis, founder of the group Gathering to Save Our Democracy, says TBI agents
came to his farm yesterday to question him about whether he threatened the Secretary of State's office in an email. Ellis said he never sent an email to that office, and the agents left after asking him a few questions.
phoned Hargett's spokesman, Blake Fontenay, for comment today. Guess what? He'd love to talk, of course, but he just can't. The TBI won't let him, he says, "because they're still investigating." Yes, it's the old "we never comment on pending investigations" trick.
"I really am not supposed to say anything more than that at this point," Fontenay apologized. "We'd love to respond but we were asked by the TBI specifically not to respond. There definitely is another side to this, and we wish we could talk about it, but it's not usually advisable to get the TBI mad at you. My hands are tied at this time."
So then we phoned the TBI, whose spokeswoman Kristin Helm said basically there is no investigation, and she doesn't know what Fontenay is talking about.
"We had to go pay Bernie a little visit," Helm said. "We had a public official who felt as though he was being threatened, who felt there was something floating around in cyberland that was a threat. A couple of agents went to talk to Bernie and pretty much found the threats were unsubstantiated."
Helm confirmed the public official who complained was Hargett. Asked whether the TBI planned to engage in political intimidation at the behest of state officials, Helm said, "Political intimidation? We went out because he felt threatened and we needed to see if that threat was substantiated or not. I don't know anything about any political intimidation."
: Fontenay's talking now. He tells Tom Humphrey
that Hargett was worried about a comment Ellis posted last week on Humphrey's blog. Read the comment here
. "He was calling something to the TBI's attention out of an abundance of caution for his employees," Fontenay says.