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FBI agents searched the offices and homes of several Republican Tennessee lawmakers Friday.
The searches included the homes of former GOP House Speaker Glen Casada; his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren; and state Rep. Robin Smith. The office of Republican Rep. Todd Warner also was searched, according to House Speaker Cameron Sexton.
Messages from Fox News to the legislators were not immediately returned.
David Boling, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Middle Tennessee, told Fox News Friday's events were not related to the riots at the U.S. Capitol earlier this week.
Sexton told reporters the searches were part of an ongoing investigation connected to Casada’s former office. He placed three state House employees – Interim Chief of Staff Holt Whitt, legislative assistant Nadine Korby and legislative assistant Carol Simpson – on paid administrative leave until further notice, WMC-TV reported.
In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, attends a House session on the first day of the 2020 legislative session in Nashville, Tenn. U.S. Attorney’s Office of Middle Tennessee on Friday says FBI agents have been searching the homes and offices of state lawmakers. U.S. Attorney spokesman David Boling confirmed the searches on Friday included the homes of Casada and state Rep. Robin Smith. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Simpson is Casada’s legislative assistant and Korby is Rep. Ken Calfree’s legislative assistant, according to the House website.
"This has been a trying week for our country, and this will be a difficult time for our state as well as we go down this road," Sexton said during a news conference. "Personally‚ these are our friends and colleagues of ours that we worked with for many years. It’s important to remember that this is just the start of the investigation and the process, and not the end. Today does not necessarily imply guilt."
Sexton said he was informed about the investigation since taking the top leadership seat in 2019 and that he was in "full cooperation" with authorities. He declined to provide details.
Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, said he spoke with Sexton about the searches.
"It’s certainly very concerning. I know very little about that. There’s been no FBI outreach to us, but I have confidence that Speaker Sexton’s on top of the situation and we’ll learn more as this unfolds."
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Casada resigned from the top leadership post in 2019 after revelations that he exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women with Cothren — his former chief of staff — years ago. Cothren was involved in controversy years ago when it was revealed he used cocaine at a legislative office and was accused of doctoring emails to frame a young Black activist.
He denied those claims.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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