A little more than a week ago, we learned that an envelope (or possibly multiple envelopes) containing crude messages and a “white powdery substance” were received at an office for Kari Lake’s gubernatorial campaign in Arizona. A worker at the office made the discovery while going through the mail and at least two staffers were put under medical supervision. Thankfully, no illnesses were reported after the event. Two similar envelopes were collected by the FBI and sent to a laboratory for testing. Yesterday, the results of the investigation were announced. There was no powdery substance found in either envelope. So what actually happened?

An envelope that had been reported by the campaign of the Republican candidate for Arizona governor as containing a white powder was thrown away before it could be analyzed, and no powder was found in two other letters the campaign turned over to authorities, officials said.

An analysis by the state public health lab of the two subsequent letters sent to Kari Lake’s campaign office showed “there was no powder present and no harmful substance in either of the envelopes, but the two letters contained additional derogatory and vulgar statements,” Phoenix Police spokesperson Donna Rossi said in an overnight statement.

Some outlets reporting on this news appear to be suggesting that the entire incident might have been a hoax that could conveniently be blamed on a supporter of Lake’s opponent. We can’t rule out anything entirely, but the sequence of events being reported certainly is curious.

One of the most detailed reports I’ve seen thus far lays out the series of events as reported by Lake’s head of security and two of the staffers in fine detail. While going through the mail, the staffer opened one letter and allegedly found white powder on the inside along with a vulgar letter. That letter and envelope were thrown in the trash. Two other letters with similar markings and vulgarity on them were also received, but they were not opened. Those two envelopes were turned over to the authorities for testing and they did not contain any powdery substance.

The obvious question is why they didn’t retrieve the one with the powder in it from the trash. According to Lake’s workers, the staffer who threw the first envelope in the trash didn’t report the discovery to security until the following day, at which time they notified law enforcement. By that time, the trash had been emptied and presumably picked up by the sanitation department.

I’ll have to admit that this story doesn’t sit very well with me. If you were working in a campaign office for a candidate who was in the middle of a hotly contested election in a tense political landscape and you found yourself handling an unknown powdery substance included with a hateful letter, wouldn’t you be frightened for your health, if not your life? Also, wouldn’t you recognize such a development as a potential crime of a very serious nature?

Would someone really just dismissively toss such a letter in the trash? And if they did, what would prompt them to then call security and seek medical attention a full day later? If that had been a poison of some sort, the staffer could have been dead by then. Also, if a search was begun the moment the authorities were notified, the police should have been able to track down where the trash truck took the garbage that day and potentially been able to locate the suspicious envelope. Did they even look?

I don’t think we can entirely dismiss the possibility that this was some sort of false report cooked up by a couple of staffers to generate some headlines and paint Katie Hobbs’ supporters as being dangerous loons. That doesn’t suggest that Kari Lake herself was involved. (She wasn’t even in town at the time and was only notified later.) The alternate explanation if the story is fully true is that this was a very sloppy investigation from the start and the staffers in that office were far too slow to react and placed themselves in danger needlessly.

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