Haley accused of illegally flying Chanticleer flag over Statehouse

Gov. Nikki Haley ordered a Coastal Carolina flag on the Statehouse dome after the school won the College World Series.

The state’s leading Confederate flag support group says Gov. Nikki Haley violated state law when she ordered a flag representing Coastal Carolina University flown above the Statehouse dome shortly after their NCAA College World Series national championship win Friday.

James Bessenger of the S.C. Secessionist Party, said that while the pro-rebel flag group is proud of CCU’s victory, Haley went too far in putting a college banner on the dome.

Under state law, only the U.S. and South Carolina flags rightfully belong there, he argued.

“To our knowledge no special session was called or two-thirds vote take to consider the raising of this flag in the event that Coastal should win,” Bessenger said in an open letter Friday.

“Let’s not forget Gov. Haley had no qualms about calling a special session of the state General Assembly in order to launch an unprovoked, politically calculated and treacherous assault on the Confederate battle flag which flew next to the Confederate Soldier’s monument last year,” he added.

The flag was removed after Haley and lawmakers pushed to take down the banner in the wake of the Emanuel AME Church slayings.

Haley’s press office responded Friday with a quote from spokeswoman Chaney Adams: “The Coastal Carolina baseball team is the pride of South Carolina today. They earned having their flag raised.”

The Chanticleer flag was raised just as flags honoring the University of South Carolina’s 2010 and 2011 national baseball championships and Clemson University’s 1981 national football championship were put up.

The secessionist group wasn’t persuaded. “There is no difference between her unbridled use of power and President Obama’s executive orders,” Bessenger said.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham had nothing but praise to shower onto his fellow South Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy in his capacity as chairman of the House committee that investigated the September 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“He’s a decent guy trying his best,” Graham said. “He’s not on a witch hunt for Hillary Clinton.”

Which isn’t to say Graham wouldn’t have done things differently had he been put in charge of the probe.

“I was on the other camp of ‘Let’s look at this, but I don’t trust the people. I don’t trust what the White House is telling us, I think they lied through their teeth (and) I think this is manufactured political BS,’ ” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“I’d approach this as a group of people trying to get away with something bad, and I’m not going to let them get away with it. They’re trying to deny me information and deny me witnesses and Democrats are playing games. I would have got right back in their face.

“People who don’t want to cooperate are hiding something,” Graham went on, “and I would have beat the crap out of them to get to the truth. That’s what I would have done.”

A sensitive spot for Gowdy over the course of the investigation was the Democratic chorus accusing him of trying to smear former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Clinton in an election year.

Graham didn’t suggest the Benghazi committee was convened to take down Clinton — as Democrats have charged — but he said he had no problem making the Benghazi committee’s finding a part of the 2016 debate.

“If it’s not (part of the debate), it’s crazy,” Graham said, “because the closest she ever came to being commander in chief is as Secretary of State. On her watch, four people died.”

He called Benghazi “inherently part of her resume.”

For the record: Graham won’t be voting for Clinton in November. He also won’t be voting for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Following the loss of four state Senate members in runoffs Tuesday, the chamber will feature 21 members who have joined the Senate since 2012 when lawmakers reconvene in January. That’s nearly half the 46-member body.

On the House side, there will be at least 18 new faces in January, and possibly a few more if any of the 18 long-shot challengers unseat incumbents in November.

The House has 124 members total.

College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts said the substantial shift toward youth presents opportunities.

“Hopefully it will bring in some new ideas and folks who will think differently on the challenges South Carolinians faces, but you hate to lose expertise,” said Knotts, who is not a fan of term limits.

“Those leadership positions control the agenda and it can be frustrating to go there and wait decades until you have an impact. Now there are enough new people they can talk about rules and how assignments are doled out,” he said.

Schuyler Kropf, Emma Dumain and Gavin Jackson contributed to this report.