McGeachin claims she was tricked into hiding public records. But the proof is secret

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On Thursday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and Art Macomber, a Republican attorney general candidate, appeared at a press conference where they declared they would “correct the record” regarding her loss in the recent lawsuit brought by the Idaho Press Club.

If you haven’t followed the saga, here’s the short version:

Earlier this year, McGeachin convened an ad-hoc task force, claiming it would expose critical race theory and socialism and God knows what else being taught in Idaho public schools. The task force didn’t do that, but it solicited comment from the public. Reporters sought access to those comments, which McGeachin denied. The Idaho Press Club sued for access and won, and the judge imposed a civil fine and ordered her to pay all the court and attorney fees from the lawsuit. She is now seeking to use taxpayer funds to cover that.

The judge in the case said McGeachin denied the records “deliberately and in bad faith.”

In the auditorium of Ammon Elementary School, McGeachin and Macomber presented a unified front for the far right, bagging some exposure from the media they deplore, hoping for a boost in the primary election.

Things did not seem to go as planned.

After the press conference, Macomber scurried away as reporters asked him whether he had, in fact, sent a tweet only a few days earlier declaring: “McGeachin is overstepping her authority by demanding that taxpayers pay for her bills! That will not happen!”

That tweet, now deleted, stood in obvious contrast to his attitude Thursday, when he was filled with sudden sympathy for the “true conservative” who stood alongside him. The whole thing was not her fault, he said. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, his opponent in the primary, is to blame, he said.

“This is the result of bad lawyering,” he said. “As Idaho’s next attorney general, the advice coming from my office will be dependable.”

(In a statement later that day, Wasden’s spokesperson pointed out that his office’s last communication with McGeachin’s office on the matter of the task force’s records came a full six weeks before the lawsuit. In addition to being a bad lawyer, it seems Wasden is a poor time traveler.)

McGeachin’s moment of triumph came when she waved a piece of paper before the news cameras.

“I have the email right here in my hand,” she proclaimed.

Here it is, the proof that she got terrible legal advice from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, and that Wasden is at fault for her repeated breach of the law. That’s the kind of proof you would want everyone to see, right?

Except McGeachin didn’t let anyone see the piece of paper she was waving.

After the press conference — at which it was announced that no questions would be taken — I and several other journalists asked whether they could have copies of or examine this supposed email.

Submit a public records request, McGeachin said. The documents are covered by attorney-client privilege, Macomber chimed in. (Since McGeachin is the client, the privilege is hers to waive. She can produce this document at any time she likes.)

So the proof that she’s dedicated to transparency, tricked into hiding public records by a devious establishment AG — that proof is top secret. If you ever need to explain the concept of irony, you have your example.

From there, McGeachin descended into a screed, attacking the media for what she said were lies they told about her. McGeachin’s main method of correcting the media was to get her facts wrong, and claim they’d said things that they never actually said.

McGeachin has not been held in contempt, as the press reported, she said. (The press did not report that McGeachin was held in contempt. They correctly reported that the Idaho Press Club’s attorney had filed a motion to hold her in contempt after she continued to deny access to public records for weeks, in defiance of a court order. She released the records before the contempt hearing, rendering the issue moot, and the complaint was dropped.)

McGeachin hurled an absurd accusation at Idaho Statesman reporter Nicole Blanchard, saying she “came up with one of the most erroneous lies, and again I quote: ‘The task force is operating in secrecy, formulating public policy outside the public view.’” Those aren’t Blanchard’s words at all. They’re a direct quote from the official statement of the Idaho Press Club.

McGeachin also called out a recent column of mine, in which I described her indoctrination task force as “a fraud.”

That accusation, at least, is accurate.

I do think that the indoctrination task force was a fraud, a ludicrous campaign stunt that turned up nothing significant but cast aspersions on good, hardworking teachers — unfairly and unjustly. So I’ll simply repeat the point: The task force was a disgraceful spectacle, and anyone associated with it should be ashamed of themselves.

No matter how much McGeachin tries to deflect and hand-wave it away, the simple fact remains: She broke the law egregiously and repeatedly, and got called on it. The record stands.

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