Michigan’s New Attorney General Wants to Shake Up the Flint Water Crisis Investigation

Dana Nessel thought the way it had been handled was “highly suspect.”

Dana Nessel appears during a rally in Detroit, Oct. 26, 2018.Paul Sancya/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The votes are in and Democratic candidate Dana Nessel will be the next attorney general of Michigan. Nessel is set to replace Republican Bill Schuette, who lost his bid to be the next governor of Michigan. Now, the Democrat is set to tackle marijuana legalization and civil rights issues, as well as the myriad of environmental problems facing Michigan, including the ongoing Flint water crisis investigation.

After consistently leading in polls throughout the campaign, Nessel handily beat Republican Tom Leonard, a state house representative. As Mother Jones reported in October, the winner of the attorney general’s race will inherit the investigation into the Flint water crisis from Schuette. Throughout the campaign Nessel signaled that she wanted a fresh start for the investigation that Schuette began nearly three years ago:

“I have long been a critic of the way in which Bill Schuette has handled the Flint water crisis investigation,” Nessel told Bridge, a news site run by the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit think tank. “He is merely an opportunist who has used the crisis to further his political ambitions via a series of politically charged show trials.” As attorney general, Nessel promised to “re-evaluate” the investigation and any pending cases “as the entire process has been highly suspect.” 

The investigation which was launched in 2016—two years after the crisis began—has left Flint residents and activists feeling as if those responsible have faced little consequence. Schuette has been accused of exploiting the prosecutions for political gain and many feel that term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has not been held accountable for this role in the crisis.

So far, more than a dozen officials have been charged with crimes for the crisis, including Nick Lyon, the head of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Lyon, the highest-ranking official to be charged, is set to stand trial involuntary manslaughter for the death of an elderly man who died after contracting Legionnaire’s disease, which may be linked to the poisoned water. Now that Nessel is poised to take the reigns, activists are hoping the Democrat will keep her word and reassess the investigation. 

Nessel joins Gretchen Whitmer, who was handily elected governor, in what was a big night for Democrats in Michigan. 

Listen to our journalists explain all the twists and turns of Election Day, and what comes next for America, on this special episode of the Mother Jones Podcast:

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate