The news on Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice would not bring charges against former Gov. John Kitzhaber or first lady Cylvia Hayes brought some closure for the couple, and for Oregonians who have wondered about the more than two year-old federal investigation.
For Kitzhaber, the four-term governor, the announcement was a huge relief—it also gave him an opportunity to repeat a theme he has put forth over the past two years: that it was the media's fault.
"Over the last two years," Kitzhaber wrote in a statement released through a spokesman, " I have kept a low profile while resolving questions related to the federal investigation that began shortly after I was elected to a fourth term as Oregon's Governor. I'm glad to report the U.S. Attorney has concluded the investigation and found nothing to pursue.
"As I have said from the beginning," Kitzhaber continued, "I did not resign because I was guilty of any wrongdoing, but rather because the media frenzy around these questions kept me from being the effective leader I wanted and needed to be. Then there was the real investigation, not by reporters, but by people with subpoena power and the ability to look at everything in context. They decided there was nothing to pursue. So I'm back."
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Hayes picked up that thread as well, pointing to "unethical media bad-actors," but she also appeared to acknowledge something that Kitzhaber didn't: That she'd made mistakes. For that, she said, "I am deeply sorry."
One of the many questions that remains is what federal investigators learned in the course of their investigation, which began before Kitzhaber resigned on Feb. 18, 2015.
In an interview on June 16, with Oregon Public Broadcasting, Kitzhaber told reporter Kate Davidson that the feds only contacted him "about a month-and-a-half ago."
So what were federal agents doing between late 2014 and May 2017, when they finally talked to the former governor?
In the normal course of events, it would take a long time to find that out, because federal law enforcement agencies sometimes respond slowly to federal Freedom of Information Act requests.
But in this case, Oregonians are fortunate. That's because when the Oregon Department of Justice suspended its short-lived criminal investigation of Kitzhaber and Hayes in favor of the federal investigation in late February 2015, the agency did so in exchange for a promise from federal authorities.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office has agreed to share information with the state once the far-ranging federal criminal investigation is completed," said a statement from Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Feb. 27, 2015. (Disclosure: Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, a co-owner of WW's parent company).
So Kitzhaber and Hayes will now accelerate their re-entry into public life in Oregon, and reporters will wait for the feds or Oregon DOJ to share with the public what the feds shared with that agency.
Meanwhile, those at the top of the state's Democratic Party (many of whom encouraged or even pressured Kitzhaber to resign), are now reluctant to talk about him.
Since the U.S. DOJ announcement on Friday, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), and Gov. Kate Brown have remained silent. Only Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) commented on the feds' announcement.
"I'm glad to see this long investigation come to a close," Courtney said in a brief statement. "Now, Governor Kitzhaber and his family can put this trying time behind them."
The state's large papers' editorial pages were largely quiet on Kitzhaber and Hayes over the weekend, with the exception of the Eugene Register Guard, the first paper to call on Kitzhaber to resign.
In its Sunday editorial, the Guard made it clear it's seen enough of the former governor in public life.
"While the investigation has ended with no charges being filed, politics is not just about facts — it's also about appearances," the Guard wrote. "And Kitzhaber is now saddled with the image of a powerful man who used his power and influence on behalf of his girlfriend in dealings with state employees and ignored warning signs that eventually led to a federal investigation."
"In the court of public opinion, this is not a good image to have. So, while Kitzhaber can take satisfaction from the conclusion of the investigation, with no charges being filed, he also should make his retirement from politics permanent."