Government & Politics

Democrat wanted to question Sen. Hawley under oath in transparency case. Judge said no

FILE - In this Feb. 29, 2019 file photo, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 29, 2019 file photo, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) AP

A Cole County judge has rejected a Democrat’s attempt to question U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley under oath in a legal dispute with the governor’s office over a Sunshine Law request.

Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for Missouri attorney general in 2020, asked the court to issue a subpoena to Hawley in February demanding he submit to a deposition. The subpoena was issued as part of Gross’ lawsuit against Gov. Mike Parson, whose office charged Gross $3,600 for records that it said would take six months to produce.

Hawley was served the subpoena as he was leaving the stage following his debut appearance last month at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC conference in Washington, D.C.

Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce on Tuesday quashed the subpoena, saying there is “no evidence that Sen. Hawley has any non-privileged information relevant to this case.”

She also noted that Gross subpoenaed Hawley before attempting to interview or gather evidence from anyone in the governor’s office.

Hawley celebrated the decision.

“Of course this is how the court ruled. As we have said all along, this was just the latest political stunt by a Democrat candidate trying to get a headline by attacking Josh Hawley. Another swing and a miss,” said Kelli Ford, Hawley’s spokeswoman.

Gross’ Sunshine Law request sought records detailing communication between the governor’s office and A New Missouri, a political nonprofit set up to advance former Gov. Eric Greitens’ agenda.

He sued after the governor’s office told him how expensive the request would be to fulfill. He said he wanted to question Hawley because he was Missouri’s Attorney General, “and he was in charge of enforcing Missouri’s Sunshine Law.”

Hawley’s attorney argued last month in court that there is no evidence that the attorney general’s office, much less Hawley, was in any way involved in the handling Gross’ request.

Gross said he’s still hopeful he’ll get to question Hawley in his lawsuit, saying that “the court’s order asks for more evidence before the Court will allow me to take Senator Hawley’s deposition.”

“I hope that Sen. Hawley changes his mind and voluntarily provides the information he has about dark money corruption in our government,” Gross said.

Hawley is still at the center of a separate open records lawsuit filed last month in Cole County by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

That lawsuit seeks an order from Cole County Circuit Court declaring that attorney general’s office under Hawley violated the Sunshine Law when it withheld emails between Hawley’s official staff and his political consultants during the 2018 Senate campaign.

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Jason Hancock is The Star’s lead political reporter, providing coverage of government and politics on both sides of the state line. A two-time National Headliner Award winner, he’s been repeatedly named one of the “best state political reporters” in America by the Washington Post.

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