The chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has responded to last week’s Metro Times cover story that included new, previously unreported revelations of a cover-up in the Flint water crisis.
“It would be deeply troubling if any of the officials involved in the poisoning of Flint’s children destroyed evidence of their misconduct,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “Governor Snyder obstructed the Committee’s investigation from the outset and set the tone that his decisions were above accountability. Governor Snyder made the choice to put money over the lives of the children in Flint and he must be held accountable.”
Additionally, a source tells reporters Jordan Chariton and Jenn Dize of independent news organization Status Coup that the committee is now investigating potential destruction of evidence by the Snyder administration based off the report.
#BREAKING: Dem.-controlled House Oversight Committee responds to our #FlintWaterCrisis cover-up bombshell, saying it would be "deeply troubling" if Snyder admin. destroyed evidence of potential crimes. Source tells me + @JennElizabethJ cmte is investigating based on our reporting pic.twitter.com/Tq22i4L2O2— Jordan (@JordanChariton) July 28, 2021
The report, by Chariton and Dize and co-published by Metro Times and The Intercept, featured a slew of new details of the Flint water crisis cover-up, including obtained emails and documents from the Flint criminal investigation showing top health department officials’ phones had no messages on them for all of 2014 through October 2015 — the full period Flint received water from the Flint River and the deadly waterborne Legionnaires Disease spread throughout the city, killing an untold number of residents. According to other documents obtained by Metro Times and The Intercept, phones belonging to officials with the state environmental department were dropped off to the IT department “wiped clean” soon after Governor Snyder announced Flint’s high lead levels in October 2015. Other documents showed the phone belonging to Sara Wurfel, the press secretary to Governor Snyder during the Flint water crisis, was erased when she left her role shortly before the launch of the Flint criminal investigation.
Prosecutors also discovered Richard Baird, Snyder’s top adviser and “right-hand man,” was interfering with the investigation by approaching state officials before their testimony to try and influence what they told prosecutors, according to the report. Baird also altered Flint water crisis timelines — created by the state environmental and health departments to provide their agencies actions during the water crisis — to prevent the full scope of the Snyder’s administration's actions from going public. When one Genesee County official noticed glaring holes in Michigan’s environmental department timeline, he wrote “I doubt they want our help filling in the blanks.”
The office of Attorney General Dana Nessel removed then-Special Prosecutor Todd Flood after he spent three years leading the investigation to start the investigation “from scratch.” As a result of Nessel’s new investigation, Snyder faces just two counts of willful neglect, misdemeanors that carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison or a $1,000 fine.
Previous reporting suggests Flood’s team was building an involuntary manslaughter case against Snyder before they were dismissed. It’s unknown whether AG Nessel’s Flint prosecutors presented the evidence revealed in this report to the secretive one-man grand jury — Judge David Newblatt — who indicted Snyder with a misdemeanor.
So far, no major media outlet in Michigan or beyond has followed up or acknowledged the report. Flint Congressman Dan Kildee, Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, and Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have not yet spoken out. Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib spoke out on the story on Tuesday, condemning Snyder for covering up the Flint water crisis. U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California has also spoken out. Environmental advocate Erin Brockovich, who has visited Flint during the crisis, called revelations broken by Metro Times and The Intercept “the biggest coverup story you're going to read.” Actress Susan Sarandon responded to the story by asking “how was Snyder only charged with a misdemeanor and why has the Dem-controlled House Oversight Committee not brought him back in for perjuring himself???”
Reporter Krystal Ball cited the report as an example of a story that the mainstream media was ignoring.
“One would think that somebody in the establishment media might care about this critical new piece of information for understanding how exactly … an entire American city was poisoned,” Ball said. “You won’t be surprised to learn, however, we heard not a peep.”