LANSING, Mich. -- Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, is responding for the first time publicly after news of an alleged extramarital affair with another representative surfaced last week along with a bizarre plan to try and cover it up.
Monday morning, Courser released a nearly 30 minute audio recording on his campaign website addressing the alleged affair first reported Friday by the Detroit News. The News' report detailed how he and fellow lawmaker Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, were cheating on their respective spouses and then of trying to use taxpayer resources to cover it up.
Full audio statement:
In a secret recording obtained by the Detroit News from one of Courser’s former staff members, Courser can be heard outlining a plan to spread a rumor of being caught with a male prostitute to make the affair with Gamrat seem less serious in an effort to create a 'controlled burn.'
Courser said in his is audio statement he sent the email because he was being blackmailed by the Lansing 'mafia' establishment trying to bring him down. He also apologized to his family, his constituents, and Gamrat’s family.
At the end of his audio statement, Courser gave out the phone number of the supposed blackmailer. FOX 17 attempted to call the number but it was 'not accepting calls at this time.'
Despite calls to resign from several lawmakers, in his audio statement Courser said he is choosing to stay in office to address 'political shenanigans' in Lansing.
Courser also posted a statement on his Facebook page Sunday night saying “I want to thank all of you who have offered up your prayers and support these last few days; it has meant the world to myself and my family,” the post reads. “Given all that is happening around me I have felt it was appropriate to simply take some time and reflect and simply pray. I will try and issue a statement tomorrow…God bless you all and thanks again for your prayers!”
On Friday, Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, ordered the House business office to conduct an investigation into the ordeal in order to determine if any Courser and Gamrat had violated any House rules and used taxpayer resources inappropriately. If any criminal wrongdoing is discovered, information would then be sent to law enforcement.
In a radio interview with WJR Monday morning, Cotter called the situation unfortunate, adding the allegations made against his office by Courser are ludicrous.
Courser, in his audio statement, claimed his office had been bugged by various staffers who had worked for him who were then feeding information to Cotter's office.
"There's certainly not bugging of his office," Cotter told WJR. "There are no drones circling his office or black helicopters. This is another example, in what has been a long pattern, of Courser always trying to look like the victim."
Cotter said Courser's former aides had approached his office 'some time ago' while rumors of the affair were intensifying in Lansing, but there was no hard evidence at the time if any wrongdoing taking place. Cotter said it is not uncommon for members of various offices to have contact with his office to discuss projects or other issues.
Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesperson for House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office, told FOX 17 electronic records, emails and laptops had been seized from the two representatives' offices Friday, while any data on House servers had been secured during the weekend.
Cotter said he is witholding judgement at this point as to whether the two should resign, adding he'd like to allow the process to play out.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, has also called on the State Attorney General to investigate--as an independent, outside agency-- something Cotter acknowledged would likely eventually need to happen.
"I urge Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to lead this investigation and get to the bottom of these allegations," Greimel said in a release late Monday morning.
"There is no place in the Legislature for people who are engaged in criminal conduct, and when accusations of this magnitude are raised, the taxpayers of Michigan deserve a full investigation.”
Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, also called for an investigation Monday into House Republican Speaker Kevin Cotter, saying he wants to know what Cotter knew about the affair and when he knew it.
As of Monday afternoon, the only public comment Gamrat has made following the reports was a post on her Facebook page cancelling her open office hours that had been scheduled in Allegan County for Monday evening.