In a jaw-dropping tweet and press conference this week, County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that she expects to be indicted in connection with the now infamous vaccine outreach contract scandal.
At a press conference, Hidalgo went much further, calling out Harris County District Attorney and fellow Democrat, Kim Ogg, for conducting a “politically motivated” investigation. Hidalgo’s six-minute diatribe is hard to follow but she makes several statements that are blatantly false.
First, she alleges that the fact the investigation is being conducted during her campaign is a priori evidence that it is politically motivated. That, of course, is complete nonsense. The alleged crimes did not come to light until Commissioners began to ask for details about the contract last fall. So, the investigation has only been ongoing for about eight months which is hardly unusual. Also, according to my sources, Hidalgo’s office refused to voluntarily hand over documents to the District Attorney’s office, regarding the contract resulting in the necessity to bring in the Texas Rangers to subpoena them, delaying the investigation. If Hidalgo and her staff had nothing to hide, why not voluntarily turn over the documents and expedite the process?
Second, Hidalgo alleges that the District Attorney’s office gave a motion to revoke her chief of staff’s bail to the press before it was given to his attorney. Her sole “evidence” for this assertion is that a reporter called the defense attorney before he had seen the motion. This proves absolutely nothing. All of the reporters following this story are daily checking for court filings in the case. It is not at all unsurprising that a reporter might see it online before a copy made it to a defense attorney’s desk.
She also claims that the District Attorney’s Office has been litigating the case in the press while she was supposedly “forbidden from responding.” Of course, she was never forbidden by the legal process from responding. Her lawyers may have told to keep quiet. Certainly, after her performance at the press conference last week you can see why they might.
But in fact, it was Hidalgo who dispatched her attorneys to make her case to media outlets that she believed would be sympathetic. Her lawyers met with Texas Monthly, the Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle, providing each documents which they have refused to hand over to investigators voluntarily. It is Hidalgo’s team, not the District Attorney’s office, that has been aggressively trying the case in the press.
She went on to allege that “we have state media and local media that have reported on how the allegations are . . . based on a distortion of the facts.” But those stories reported on how Hidalgo’s attorney’s alleged that the charges were based on distorted facts. Each of the stories pointed out numerous contradictions and inconsistencies in the story being spun by Hidalgo’s lawyers. Even the normally Hidalgo-fawning Houston Chronicle editorial board concluded that while the documents presented by Hidalgo’s lawyers cast some doubt on the bid-rigging allegations, they did not clear her and that serious questions remained.
Toward the end of the press conference, after a question from a reporter pointing out that Hidalgo and Ogg were both Democrats, Hidalgo’s comments descend in a nearly indecipherable rant about the “they” who are coming after her. While continuing to lamblast Ogg, she throws in references to Ted Cruz, Mike Lindell and Steve Hotze for good measure. Of course, she did not mention that Ogg’s office just indicted Hotze. But apparently notwithstanding that “they” are all in some great cabal to derail her efforts to shepherd Harris County into her progressive utopia.
I think it is important to understand that the corruption alleged regarding the vaccine contract is different from the garden variety cronyism and influence peddling, which are so endemic in our state. This corruption is born in the hubris of zealots so convinced of their righteousness that any means justify the ends, even if those means violate the law. I actually fear this type of corrupt more. The inability of ideological zealots to engage in critical self-examination leads to the pursuant of policies based on a religious-like belief regardless of real-world consequences. I think this is the reason we are seeing such widespread dysfunction of Harris County government from election administration to IT failures to the breakdown of the criminal court system and the hellish conditions in the Harris County jail.
I have no idea if Hidalgo will be indicted on the vaccine contract. The facts set out in the affidavit of the Texas Ranger attached to the application for the search warrant certainly show that Hidalgo was intimately and directly involved in the effort to steer the contract to Elevate Strategies. But clearly something happened last week that rattled Hidalgo. I suspect her attorneys found out that someone close to her is cooperating with investigators. If so, her concerns may be well founded.