COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admits he used bad judgment when he secretly visited his mistress during a state-funded trip to Argentina last year. But did he break the law?
As calls mounted for a criminal investigation of the trade mission, a spokeswoman for the state’s law enforcement division said it doesn’t appear Sanford did anything illegal.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said the information provided so far indicates Sanford met his mistress on private time during a legitimate business trip.
“Perhaps his judgment was clouded, but he did not have criminal intent,” Timmons said Saturday. “The situation would be completely different if he’d asked Commerce to set up the trip to Argentina with the sole intent to set up an extramarital affair.”
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After going missing for days, the married father of four admitted Wednesday he’d been back in Argentina to see a woman with whom he has been having a yearlong affair. His staff had said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
On Thursday, Sanford agreed to reimburse the state for part of the more-than $8,000 tab. Exactly how much he needs to pay back has not yet been determined, Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Saturday.
Mark Sanford’s mother, Margaret, said Saturday she is praying for her son.
“I love him and support him,” Sanford, 83, told The Associated Press while sitting on a wooden picnic bench overlooking the Coosaw River outside her home in Beaufort. “I love him and I pray for him.”
Margaret Sanford said she had just returned from Columbia but would not say whether she spent time with her son or say much beyond acknowledging that the two have spoken since the scandal broke.
“I just say ‘I love you’ and that’s it,” she said.