Finley: Let Snyder go in peace

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gives an exit interview to editorial board and reporters of The Detroit News in the Tony Snow conference room at the newspaper office in downtown Detroit on Friday, December 7, 2018.

As House Democrats begin their oversight turn in Washington, among the first targets of their promised inquisition is Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, who takes over Jan. 1 as head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is threatening to  subpoena Snyder to return to Congress for more testimony about the Flint water crisis.

"I'm not done with Flint," Cummings said two weeks ago, adding that what happened keeps him up at night.

Of course he isn't done with Flint. There's still political hay to be made from there. 

Snyder appeared before Congress in March of 2016 with Republicans in control of the committee. He was thoroughly grilled by members, including Cummings, who demanded the governor resign.

As a follow-up, Snyder’s staff sent the committee tens of thousands of pages of documents regarding the state’s actions in Flint.

What more Cummings hopes to glean from an encore appearance by Snyder is unclear. This time the governor would be appearing as a private citizen – he leaves office Dec. 31.

When asked about the possible subpoena during his exit interview with The Detroit News Editorial Board last week, Snyder said: "I’m somewhat confused because I don’t know what the question is that hasn’t already been answered."

Does Cummings expect that Snyder is going to show up with a whole new set of answers than he gave in his first appearance?

Snyder has answered questions not only from Congress, but also from Attorney General Bill Schuette in his prosecutorial role investigating the administration's handling of Flint. If Schuette could have tagged the governor, you can bet he would have.

This inquest has no useful purpose other than to humiliate Snyder, and by extension Republicans. Democrats have promised to use their investigatory power aggressively now that they’re in the majority. And it won’t be their own they’re investigating.

Flint is recovering from the lead contamination of its water, in no small part due to the support provided by the governor and his administration. Snyder knows he mishandled the response to the crisis, moving way too slowly to address citizen complaints and put emergency procedures in place. He said in the interview with The News that he treated Flint as a learning experience, and has enacted measures to assure the state is better prepared to respond to such crises in the future.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

In addition, court trials are underway to determine whether individuals in his administration were criminally negligent in carrying out their duties related to the water contamination.

There’s no point now in forcing Snyder to endure yet another public flogging, except to give Democrats a chance to settle old scores.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, is on Cummings’ committee and has from the beginning of the Flint crisis tried to mine it for political gain. She won't be much use in heading off a subpoena of the governor.

But other members of the state’s Democratic caucus should do what they can to discourage Cummings from staging this show trial.

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