By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Counsel for the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee reported Friday on its investigation into online comments by a Republican lawmaker that appeared to accuse the federal government of a supermarket massacre in Buffalo, New York.
But attorney Chris Kleminich’s report came to no conclusion about whether Sen. Wendy Rogers’ comment broke Senate rules and said the committee’s role was over.
Instead, it will be up to the full Senate to decide whether the Flagstaff lawmaker’s comments warrant discipline.
The ethics committee was tasked by the full Senate in May to review the online message Rogers posted the night a young white man walked into a market in a predominantly black neighborhood and shot and killed 10 people. Authorities say the shooter posted a racist screed before the May 14 attack.
As news of the mass shooting was just breaking out, Rogers tweeted, “Fed boys’ summer has begun in Buffalo.”
Many in both parties interpreted that tweet to mean that Rogers blamed the feds for the attack, especially in light of Rogers’ history of conspiracy theories.
Rogers later wrote that his comments were misinterpreted by the media. She said instead they had expressed concern that inaction on crime and border security would lead to rioting and looting.
But Kleminich noted that it wasn’t just the media that interpreted his comments to mean the feds were behind Buffalo’s attack. He noted that most of the comments in response to his post interpreted it the same way.
Rogers declined to be interviewed by Kleminich. Instead, she answered questions through her attorney, Tim La Sota.
La Sota criticized the investigation, saying it would lead to investigations into other activities protected by free speech rights.
“Where this leads is obvious and is demonstrated by this case,” La Sota wrote. “Republicans will be required to defend themselves amid these ethical ‘investigations,’ and Democrats will be given a pass.”
Kleminich said any action would now rest with the entire Senate, which requested the investigation.
The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans and could adjourn for the year any day, could decide on disciplinary action ranging from a formal censure to expulsion. He could also drop the case without action.
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