2021 TN legislative session begins amid FBI investigation


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The state legislature is back in session on Capitol Hill just days after the FBI raided offices and even homes of three Republican lawmakers.

The former Tennessee House Speaker is at the center of federal raids that took place Friday.
The offices and homes of representatives Glen Casada, Robin Smith, and Todd Warner were all searched. Agents searched the home of Casada’s former chief of staff, Cade Cothren.

“Just understand I’m fully cooperating, there is an investigation, the statement is as it is,” Rep. Smith said. “I’m not the target of the investigation and I certainly don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

House Majority Leader William Lamberth said the investigation came up in a closed-door GOP meeting this morning.

“Now it was referenced in the fact that there is apparently an ongoing investigation, but no one in there knows any details about it to my knowledge and it was not discussed,” Rep. Lamberth said.

Re-elected House Speaker Cameron Sexton met with News 2 after session and said this is no reason for Tennesseans to doubt the work of the legislature.

“Hopefully they see it as an isolated incident, for those people who are involved, whether they’re guilty or not, but right now what we know is your intent in Tennessee and in the country, you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Speaker Sexton said. “I think the people of Tennessee can trust us because just because there’s a couple people in any profession doesn’t mean it’s the profession is all like that.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Vincent Dixie said investigation or not, there are things that need to get done.

“Hopefully we can work through that, come back together, and realize why you’re here, you’re not here for power grabs, we’re not here for personal gain, we’re here to do the business of the people,” Rep. Dixie said.

Casada stepped down as the Speaker in 2019 after exchanging sexually explicit text messages about women with his former chief of staff, Cothren. An audit afterward also found that he failed to report $26,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures and did not have receipts for more than $100,000 in expenses. Whether the FBI is focusing on those missing receipts is still unclear.

Speaker Sexton said their top priority this week will be the Tenncare block grant and education next week.

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