Why Did Cochran Wait Nearly Three Weeks to Bring Break-In Info to Police?
The personal attorney for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) offered little explanation late Monday for why nearly three weeks elapsed between when Cochran's campaign initially learned a crazed blogger had broken into his wife's residence and when he went to the police with information about the incident, leading to the blogger's arrest Friday.
“In responding to any inquiries about this legal matter, we are conscious of preserving the confidentiality of attorney client relationship,” Cochran’s attorney Don Clark said in an emailed statement to Breitbart News in response to a story in The Hill.
That said, I can tell you that once Senator Cochran became aware of the video that contained an image of his wife, he asked me and our firm to represent him in pursuing whatever remedies he and his family might have. As we would in any similar situation, we gathered appropriated background information on his behalf and looked at his options for both civil and criminal remedies. That resulted ultimately in our contacting the appropriate law enforcement authorities on his behalf and turning this matter over to them. They have conducted their own investigation and have taken whatever actions they deemed appropriate. We have made it clear that we will continue to cooperate with them on Senator Cochran’s behalf in any that we can.
Madison, Mississippi, police said in a press release that they received information about the blogger, Clayton Kelly, 28, on Thursday, May 15. Clark has said the information he provided police led to the arrest, and The Hill confirmed Clark provided the information to police Thursday.
Jordan Russell, a spokesman for Cochran, told The Hill the campaign learned about the break-in on April 26, when Kelly published a video that included a photo of Rose Cochran in her residence at a retirement home online.
“We were made aware of [the video] that morning because people were emailing us saying, ‘Did you see this?’” Russell said. “We conducted our own review for a few days and then went to Sen. Cochran about it, and that was when the decision was made to turn it over to the attorneys.”
Jaffe also noted Russell said the campaign’s internal investigation lasted anywhere from three days to a week—at which point the matter was turned over to Cochran’s personal attorney, Clark.
During the time Cochran was in possession of information about the break-in but had not released it, various media outlets, including Breitbart News, were reporting on and publishing stories about Cochran listing as his residence the address of a Capitol Hill house owned by his longtime executive assistant, Kay Webber, and about his extensive foreign travels with her.
Additionally, polls during the period in question showed a sharp uptick in support for Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Cochran in the GOP Senate primary.
McDaniel said in a Monday interview on Sirius XM Patriot Channel’s Andrew Wilkow’s show that the timing was certainly suspicious. “It’s crazy,” McDaniel said. “It’s just politics is very unusual. We made a jump in the polls—we took the lead in two polls—and all of a sudden things just got crazy again. I know that God has a plan, we’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to stick to the issues.”
McDaniel said during that interview that Cochran’s campaign “should” acknowledge that McDaniel, in the words of Wilkow, “had nothing to do with this guy [Kelly].”
“I think that’s what reasonable people should do, is to understand that this was just the act of a lone guy,” McDaniel said. “We all condemn it. We all think it was irresponsible and terrible. But instead of trying to make political hay out of it, we should all work together to try to condemn these kinds of activities.”
Wilkow even suggested, without evidence, that Cochran might have dispatched Kelly to break into his own wife's residence as a means of discrediting McDaniel.
“If this is coming from Thad Cochran’s campaign, or the Karl Roves of the world, I want to know whose idea this was,” Wilkow said, before imitating the GOP establishment operatives who might have been planning this for weeks since the Kelly incident in late April. “‘Alright, we got a tactic here: We’re going to take down Chris McDaniel using a McDaniel supporter who’s going to break into Thad Cochran’s wife’s room in the infirmary and get a video of her.’”
McDaniel noted The Hill’s report in response to that. “The Cochran campaign had been holding onto this for at least two weeks,” he said.
“So this act apparently happened a while back and somebody held off arresting this guy?” Wilkow asked, sounding shocked.
Two polls conducted last week—one by Citizens United which was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, and another by Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund conducted Wednesday—show Cochran in serious danger of losing the election. The Citizens United poll has McDaniel with a slight 43-39 lead, inside the margin of error; and the other poll puts McDaniel up 43-36, a seven-point lead, outside the margin of error.
In a risky and aggressive response to McDaniel’s momentum last week, the Cochran campaign sent out a spokesman to take McDaniel's stage after a press conference Thursday to call him a “liar.” During a brief question-and-answer with reporters there, Russell was asked about polling data and wouldn’t provide any of the campaign’s internal polling.
“We don’t pay attention to polls; we work our campaign plan, and we’ve got great support because Sen. Cochran works hard for Mississippi,” Russell said. “And he’s always been there for them, and he’ll always be there for them.”
When The Hill's Alex Jaffe asked McDaniel about Kelly's arrest Saturday morning on the campaign trail, she noted that D.C. political operatives had sent her a photo of McDaniel and Kelly at a campaign stop in what appears to be a routine grip-and-grin shot.
The photo “is being blasted out by folks in Washington,” Jaffe said.
The Hattiesburg American newspaper reports that the wife of Kelly, the blogger who took the photo of Rose Cochran, confirms the narrative reported by Breitbart News late Sunday evening—that the McDaniel campaign was upset when the video was posted and called for it to be removed.
“Now, here’s where it gets tricky,” Tara Kelly, Clayton Kelly’s wife, said, according to the local paper. “The video was up for about an hour and a half when Clayton received word, either through Facebook or the phone, I’m not sure, that ‘the big man,’ meaning Chris McDaniel, wanted it taken down. The exact words, I remember Clayton told me, were ‘the big man himself says take it down.’ Clayton was already going to take it down, but did so at that time.”
Tara Kelly also said she thinks that McDaniel’s campaign bungled its initial response to the news on Saturday. “It seems they lied,” she said. “They said they didn’t know anything about it, then another guy says that they did.”