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Attorney General Nessel Responds to Runestad Request for Investigation
March 15, 2021
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today responded to a request from eight state senators to open an investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's handling of COVID-19 patients in Michigan nursing homes.
State senators Jim Runestad, Tom Barrett, Ruth Johnson, Kim LaSata, Roger Victory, Lana Theis, Dale Zorn, and Curtis VanderWall signed a Feb. 23 letter that specifically raised concerns regarding the governor's COVID-19 processes and policies for nursing homes; the accuracy of COVID-19 reporting data; compliance with CDC Guidelines; and compliance with the state Freedom of Information Act.
Attorney General Nessel addressed each of the four areas of concern outlined in the correspondence and detailed why each concern, as presented, did not warrant the opening of an investigation by her office. The Attorney General made clear the choice to investigate a claim or pursue prosecution must be made free from political motivations or influence.
"Though I will not hesitate to act when justified, I also will not abuse the investigatory powers of this Department to launch a political attack on any state official, regardless of party or beliefs," said Nessel in her response.
Nessel also highlighted the American Bar Association's "Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecutorial Investigations" in her response: "Law enforcement officials have an ethical duty to 'resist political pressure intended to influence the conduct, focus, duration or outcome of a criminal investigation,' and to 'limit the political impact' of an investigation 'without regard to the official's personal political beliefs or affiliations,'" said Nessel.
Nessel did pursue an investigation into allegations surrounding a state contract for COVID-19 contact tracing services highlighted in a prior written request made by Sen. Jim Runestad. The Attorney General assigned multiple prosecutors and Special Agents to investigate the contact tracing contract. The AG's investigation team interviewed 17 witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents. Their findings were released in a 29-page report outlining the work and explaining how criminal charges were unfounded under Michigan law.