Nessel: Engler didn’t have time for investigators, but made time for basketball

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Posted at 2:55 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 08:19:07-04

LANSING (WXYZ) — The madness began a little early in East Lansing.

A scheduled interview between the Michigan Attorney General’s office and former MSU President John Engler is off today after both sides engaged in a war of words involving, among other things, college basketball.

Since January, shortly after Engler was forced out as interim President of MSU, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office made clear their desire to interview Engler as they continue to investigate the school over the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.

But Engler’s attorney, according to Nessel, said the ex-president wouldn’t be in Michigan in the near future, and instead suggested conducting the interview in Washington, D.C. in late March.

But several times over the last few weeks, photos surfaced on social media of Engler taking in MSU basketball games in East Lansing. At the March 9th game between Michigan State and Michigan, Engler sat courtside.

In a three-page letter sent to the chair of MSU’s board of trustees, Dana Nessel fumes that Engler may have deliberately avoided having the interview conducted in Michigan because Washington D.C.’s laws for “intentionally lying to a police officer…are not as strong as in Michigan.”

Nessel’s office canceled the interview with Engler scheduled for March 28, claiming it's clear that he’s not interested in being candid with investigators.

“From the tone of her message, she felt he wasn’t cooperative,” said Trustee Brian Mosallam, a frequent Engler critic. “I’m sure the optics of him sitting at the basketball games didn’t sit well with her.”

Mosallam said that while the board can’t compel Engler to speak to investigators in Michigan, it can apply pressure.

“If the board feels that he is in violation of his contract and is not complying with the AG, the board has the authority to pull his indemnification, which means not paying his legal fees,” Mosallam said.

But Engler’s attorney is pushing back. In a five-page response, Seth Waxman insists Nessel's office is showboating, Engler isn’t trying to hide from anyone and that he “never indicated he was unwilling to travel to Michigan" for an interview.

"You have prejudged Mr. Engler's veracity and motives without ever talking to him," Waxman wrote in a letter to assistant Attorney General Christina Grossi, adding that while Engler would have sat down for an interview before, he now won’t agree to an interview unless she recuses herself from the case.