JEFFERSON CITY – Allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens have been shared with federal authorities by a private attorney and a key lawmaker, according to testimony Thursday during a legislative hearing.
The hearing by a special House committee considering whether to recommend Greitens' impeachment frequently turned testy as lawmakers questioned an attorney for a man whose ex-wife has testified that Greitens bound, blindfolded and took a partially nude photo of her during a sexual encounter in 2015.
Lawyer Al Watkins said that in late January or early February 2017 he provided the FBI with a copy of an audio recording the man secretly made of his then-wife describing her interaction with Greitens.
Watkins said he also provided the FBI with photos of cash he received in January 2018 from The Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn as Watkins was working to publicize the audio recording.
During the hearing, committee chairman Rep. Jay Barnes said he, too, talked with the FBI this year about testimony a former Greitens' campaign aide provided to the legislative panel indicating that Greitens' campaign had discussed how to conceal the identities of some political donors.
A spokesman for the FBI office in St. Louis declined to comment about whether it is conducting an investigation of Greitens. It is the long-standing policy of the U.S. Department of the Justice that the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
Greitens faces a Missouri felony charge for disclosing the donor list of a veterans' charity he founded to his political fundraiser in 2015. A St. Louis prosecutor is considering whether to refile a recently dismissed invasion-of-privacy charge related to Greitens' actions with the woman.
The legislative committee has also been probing the motivation and means by which news of Greitens' affair first became public in January. Greitens' attorneys have suggested his political opponents are out to get him.
Watkins testified that he initially was hired by the woman's ex-husband in 2016 to help suppress potential media stories about her affair with Greitens. But Watkins said the man's motivation changed in December 2017 when a reporter called his stepdaughter. Watkins said he then worked to help publicize the audio recording and provided it to some St. Louis media outlets on Jan. 3.
Watkins said he met with Faughn on Jan. 5. He said Faughn told him he could provide $100,000 to help cover the husband's legal fees "and hopefully to help him have a soft landing."
That money was provided in two $50,000 cash installments on Jan. 8 and 9 — the first delivered personally by Faughn and the second by a courier, Watkins said.
He said Faughn conveyed that "the source of those two payments was a wealthy Republican" whose relationship with the governor was "personal, which I interpreted to mean there was an ax to grind." Faughn later clarified that the donor lived outside Missouri, Watkins said.
St. Louis TV station KMOV first reported about the audio recording on Jan. 10.
Watkins said Faughn later gave him an additional $20,000, half of which he said was for Faughn's own legal fees and half to help relocate Watkins' family members after they had been intimidated.
Faughn testified Wednesday that the cash was his own but declined to answer questions about how he got it. Faughn said the $100,000 was for the purchase of audio recordings that he hoped to use in a future book about Greitens.
Watkins recoiled at suggestions that Faughn had paid him for the audio recording, but acknowledged that he did provide Faughn a copy of the recording. He said all of the money went to his law firm and none will go to the ex-husband.
Greitens' attorneys said in letter to lawmakers that they want subpoenas served to Faughn to compel him to answer questions about the source of the money and to provide documents that could reveal it. The governor's lawyers also want subpoenas issued to several other people associated with a bank to probe the potential original source of the money.
Greitens' attorney Ed Dowd told reporters Thursday that Faughn's cash amounted to "a payoff for a witness. That's not appropriate."
"That money is being paid to get the governor," Dowd said.
As Thursday's legislative hearing got underway, Dowd and Barnes got into a yelling match about evidence and testimony. Among other things, Barnes pressed Dowd about whether Greitens would testify to the legislative panel. Dowd said that's not yet been determined.
Later Thursday, Greitens' campaign attorney Catherine Hanaway suggested that Barnes "has made himself a material witness" in the investigation he is leading. That's partly because Barnes said Wednesday that he had received a copy of the recording from Faughn.
The tactic is similar to one used successfully by Greitens' attorneys in his criminal case. Earlier this month, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against Greitens after a judge approved a request from Greitens' lawyers to question her as a potential witness in the case.
Special House committee attorney Edward "Chip" Robertson Jr. said it's disappointing that Hanaway, a former House speaker, was impugning the integrity of House members in a "desperate attempt to divert attention" from its investigation.
– Associated Press reporters Jim Salter in St. Louis and Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City contributed to this report.