House Democratic leader Eileen Filler-Corn (Fairfax) rejected Bell’s invitation as a “political game” and “partisan sideshow.”
I wrote in February that such hearings would be a political trap for Republicans and for Fairfax. Even if both sides avoided the snares, no tidy ending would result.
But Fairfax needs one — and he’s pushing matters forward to get it.
His attorney sent letters to prosecutors in North Carolina and Massachusetts on June 12 pushing them to investigate the allegations against him. The Post’s Laura Vozzella reported that Fairfax offered to testify under oath in either or both jurisdictions. Fairfax’s attorney said one of the accusers was attempting to “blackmail [Fairfax] into resigning.” Obviously, Fairfax wants to erase doubts about his past conduct, and there are questions about the statute of limitations.
But perhaps to get a better sense of the politics behind all this, we need to turn to June 11 primaries. And the improbable return of Joe Morrissey.
Morrissey carries a profound disdain for the Democratic establishment that tried like hell to keep him from winning the 16th Senate District Democratic primary. He was running against incumbent Rosalyn R. Dance. The same establishment back in February said Fairfax needed to go.
Morrissey said Fairfax deserves due process, something the lieutenant governor has repeatedly argued.
In an April radio interview, then-candidate Morrissey said, “Just because someone [or in this case, two women] makes an allegation doesn’t make it factually correct.”
Morrissey knows a thing or two about due process and scandal and the politics of both.
Remember, this is the guy who won a special House election form a jail cell after his own brush with a sexual scandal in 2014 (with a 17 year-old whom he eventually married).
“Here’s a prediction,” Morrissey said. “When it all comes out, it will be determined that Justin Fairfax was innocent. He did nothing wrong. There will be no criminal charges whatsoever.”
Morrissey went further: “And what will come out is there was a smear campaign against him, and I think he’ll be vindicated.”
Fairfax indicated early on that he believed Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney or his staffers were behind a smear campaign to keep Fairfax out of the governorship.
Which brings us back to the question of why all of this has come back to the forefront now.
Politics, pure and simple.
But as a skilled lawyer who understands due process and how prosecutors’ offices work, Fairfax knows his legal peril is slim. The allegations against him are several years old. The Post’s investigation into Tyson’s allegations found no contemporary or other corroborating evidence an assault occurred. Watson wrote a powerful op-ed for The Post reasserting her claims against Fairfax, but she offered no new evidence or corroboration. Absent such evidence, charges against Fairfax are unlikely.
Fairfax can continue to demand an investigation and due process. But it will be for political reasons — because that’s where his real peril lies.
Fairfax’s letter to prosecutors demanding action, then, was all about getting him back in the political game.
The special session on the horizon could present opportunities for him as Senate president to cast tie-breaking votes on gun control bills, so the near-term incentives for him to push matters ahead are huge.
Whether prosecutors outside Virginia will agree to play along is unknown. And Fairfax and the rest of us may be left with House hearings that will solve nothing.