(CNSNews.com) – Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, who resigned from his post under the Clinton administration over allegations of accepting improper gifts, last week that not only was he acquitted, but the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the case against him “was overwrought and was de minimis and it should not have happened.”
Espy is running against incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) in a run-off election for the Senate. During their only scheduled debate last week, Espy called the allegations against him dating back to 1994 “unfair.”
He was asked during the debate whether he regretting anything he did and whether he thought it “appropriate for cabinet officials to accept gifts from the private industries those officials help create policy for.”
“Allegations against me were unfair, and I said in the very beginning that these things are not true, and we went to a four-year investigation, and the FBI after a four-year investigation said that I have not given any favors to any companies that’s not regulated,” Espy responded.
“And then during my trial there was … a seven-week trial. You know they spent $26 million, and I was completely exonerated by a jury, and then later in a Supreme Court case that’s related to my case, Justice Antonin Scalia, reported to be the most thoughtful, certainly the most conservative Supreme Court justice at that time, ruled in my case 9 to 0 that the prosecution of my case was overwrought and was de minimis and it should not have happened,” he added.
However, Espy is facing new scrutiny for taking a six-figure payment as a lobbyist from an African dictator - former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo - in 2011.
“There’s been a lot of shadows cast over my opponent. Just recently, you have read in the newspapers where he has received $750,000 from a foreign dictator who is right now this week on trial for crimes against humanity. Those crimes include murder, rape, and unspeakable things to young girls. He has taken $750,000 from this,” Hyde-Smith said during the debate.
“I don’t know how many Mississippians can really relate to an income that can command a $750,000 check from one person for a lobbying job. You know, if I got paid $750,000 for one 12-week job, Macedonian Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi, they would love that tithe, but there’s been a lot of clouds there, and that is fact, that he was paid $750,000 from a foreign dictator,” she added.
Espy responded, saying as soon as he realized the dictator “was a really bad guy,” he notified the CIA.
“I’ve worked all over the world to lift incomes of farmers - in this case lift the incomes of cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast. I went there. I took this assignment, because they asked me to do it under contract of the Cocoa Commission of the Ivory Coast. I found out later that this guy - the president – was a really bad guy. I resigned the contract, and rescinded the last fee that I was due, and then I went to the Central Intelligence Agency after I had learned certain things and reported them, so it’s all in that report,” Espy said.
President Donald Trump is speaking in Mississippi tonight on behalf of Hyde-Smith, who has been criticized for a joke she made in a video saying if she were invited by one of her supporters to a “public hanging” she’d be in the front row.
Asked about the comments Monday, the president said, “i know she apologized. I’ve known her,” adding that “she’s done a great job.”
During the debate, Hyde-Smith was asked about the controversial comments, saying if anyone was offended by it, “I certainly apologize.” She said, “ There was no ill will, no intent, whatsoever in my statements.” The senator accused Espy of using her comments as “a political weapon.”
“I also recognize that this comment was twisted, and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me," she said. "A political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That is the type of politics Mississippians are sick and tired of."