The State has reported that one of Donald Trump’s advisors has been charged with 28 ethics violations and two counts of official misconduct. South Carolina State Rep. Jim Merrill was suspended on Wednesday. House Speaker Jay Lucas issued a brief statement concerning the suspension.
‘This suspension is in pursuant to state law and will remain in place until the matter is resolved or the seat is declared vacant.’
Merrill was first named two years ago in a report by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. Prosecutor David Pascoe has been assigned to investigate the case, but will not issue any public comments until he has completed his investigation.
The report alleges that Merrill received more than $1 million dollars from various organizations in exchange for favorable legislation. For example, he received more than $100,000 dollars from Student Transportation of America in exchange for sponsoring a bill to privatize the state’s school buses.
For his part, Merrill denies the accusations and his attorneys have issued a statement condemning them.
‘Contrary to the flawed allegations made today, the work performed by Jim Merrill’s private company was completely legal and legitimate. Solicitor Pascoe has charged Representative Merrill for conduct that is not illegal under South Carolina law. In fact, the charges include conduct that has been declared legal in written opinions by the South Carolina Attorney General, the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee, and the State Ethics Commission.
‘Representative Merrill acted in good faith and looks forward to defending himself in court.’
In addition to the above charges, Merrill is also accused of illegally receiving payments from the South Carolina House Republican Caucus. The payments total at least $276,561. The indictment also ties Merrill to former House Speaker Bobby Harrell. Merrill was alleged to have received thousands of dollars from Harrell’s political action committee, the Palmetto Leadership Council.
The indictment also says that Merrill violated the state’s laws regarding political donations. The indictment alleges that Merrill “colluded with the House Republican Caucus and the Palmetto Leadership Council to give candidate contributions to members of the Republican Caucus in excess of $5,000 and accept contributions in excess of $3,500” which are the maximum amounts allowed by state law.
Additionally, Merrill is accused of failing to report some of the donations made by the House Republican Caucus. In total, Merrill allegedly failed to account for donations totaling $164,564.
In terms of his connection to President-Elect Trump, Merrill served as the director of Trump’s South Carolina Presidential Campaign.
‘We talked through everything and finally Mr. Trump took us up to New York to meet with him. And when we sat down I realized he was indeed very serious about making this run and very committed to it. I was sold.’
Merrill went on to describe working on Trump’s campaign as an honor and expressed admiration for the enthusiasm Trump brought to the race.
‘You normally don’t see a situation like Trump’s until the party nominee is named…Very close to the election you’ll see this kind of support, but even then the crowds and the fervor that he is creating is more so now in comparison to that. It’s really something I have not experienced.’
As noted above, Merrill denies the accusations against him and is prepared to fight them in court, though a date has not yet been set.
Featured image via Getty Images.