Updated at 8:15 p.m. with comments from the House committee's attorney.
The attorney representing the ex-husband of the woman with whom Gov. Eric Greitens had an affair made an explosive appearance Thursday before the Missouri House committee investigating the governor’s conduct.
St. Louis attorney Al Watkins contradicted testimony given on Wednesday by Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn.
Faughn said the $120,000 he gave to Watkins in January was his own money. But as Watkins has told St. Louis Public Radio and other media outlets, he said that Faughn told him the money came from a disgruntled political donor.
“Those [two] payments [of $100,000] were understood by me, by virtue of what was told to me by Mr. Faughn expressly, that the source of those two payments was a wealthy Republican,” Watkins said.
He went on to say that Faughn said the anonymous donor and Greitens knew each other personally, which Watkins interpreted to mean that the donor “had an ax to grind.”
He added that the money, all in cash, was delivered in four installments. The first $50,000 was delivered by Faughn on Jan. 8, and another $50,000 was delivered on Jan. 9 by a courier called “Skylar” or “Striker,” Watkins said. Two additional deliveries of $10,000 each were made later.
“I pressed [Faughn] on a number of occasions about who this wealthy Republican was, but it was very clear from the get-go that the desire was to have this individual remain anonymous,” Watkins said.
Watkins also said that he made Faughn enter into a confidentiality agreement before giving him tapes the ex-husband made of his ex-wife. He wanted to prevent Faughn from breaking the story before other media outlets with whom he working. That also clashed with Faughn’s statements on Wednesday that he didn’t have to sign anything to get those recordings.
Faughn and Watkins both were under oath when they testified. State Rep. Jay Barnes made clear Wednesday that it is a crime to lie to the committee.
Watkins also told the committee that he contacted the FBI after receiving the payments because they were in cash: “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t dirty money, drug money, money from ill-gotten gains [or] something that would give rise to problems.”
Barnes said he had also talked with FBI agents regarding testimony from Greitens’ former campaign aide Michael Hafner that centered on how to conceal the identities of donors.
“Mr. Hafner made allegations of concealing money and potentially foreign donors,” he said. “I learned of the payment [to Watkins] in a meeting that was set up with federal law enforcement after I contacted them.”
Watkins also talked about his client, the ex-husband, detailing the decision to go public with the story the night of the governor’s State of the State Address. Watkins said the goal was to make “as much noise as possible.”
“My client had his wife compromised and his marriage compromised by a man of such power that he feared for his life,” he said. “I deal with people all the time — some are crackpots, some of them are absolutely spot-on, and this man was very credible.”
At that point, Barnes broke in and said they found the ex-husband’s testimony to NOT be credible: “Witness 3’s (the ex-husband) testimony means nothing — we don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.”
Watkins countered that “this is the mindset of a man who has endured the decimation of his marriage by another man in a position of power and authority.”
Things get heated
Later on in the hearing, Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, asked Watkins about the audio recording the ex-husband made of his ex-wife talking about her relationship with Greitens. Specifically, he asked about a “perceived discrepancy” over the ex-husband paying him to keep the recording private, then allowing TV station KMOV to air it on Jan. 10. Watkins objected to the phrase “perceived discrepancy,” which led Barnes to asking him to answer the question.
“If you want to hear my answer, let me talk, otherwise if you want to interrupt me you’re going to have to ask the goddamn question again,” Watkins said.
Watkins used profanity on several occasions during his testimony, mostly while quoting other testimony but at other times when he lost his temper. Barnes repeatedly asked him to watch his language.
Watkins responded during one of those occasions by saying “I’m sorry — does the four-letter word D-I-C-K really bother you in this day and age? We’ve got the governor doing what he’s doing and you’re worried about me saying ‘dick?’”
At one point Barnes and Watkins were loudly telling each other to “shut your mouth.” It occurred when Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, accused Watkins of not appreciating the “duty and responsibility of the committee” to do its work.
Attorney Chuck Hatfield, who appeared as Watkins’ counsel, said the witness “is here to answer questions ... he was not subpoenaed to be lectured to.” Hatfield also represented Faughn when he appeared before the committee Wednesday.
Watkins later apologized for being difficult, but also said that’s why people hire him as their lawyer.
When asked how his two clients could make such contradictory statements, Hatfield said it’s not uncommon for people to have different recollections of the same event.
Committee members took a break for lunch after they finished questioning Watkins, then resumed reading the ex-wife’s deposition into the committee’s records.
Dowd responds to Watkins and Barnes
Attorney Ed Dowd, who represented Greitens in his invasion of privacy case, attended Thursday’s hearing. He continued to complain afterward over rules adopted by the committee barring Greitens’ legal team from cross-examining Watkins and other witnesses.
“When you start giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars to people, that creates a motive to embellish and to change their testimony,” he said. “You heard Al Watkins say that he told the [St. Louis] Circuit Attorney’s office that he had received $100,000 for this witness — we didn’t know that until we heard [it] from another person months later.”
Dowd also got into a verbal scrap with Barnes at the beginning of Thursday’s committee meeting, over pornographic photos that was the subject of Wednesday’s closed session. There was speculation that the photos were of the woman in question. Barnes sternly told Dowd that committee members who had met the woman said there was “no credible evidence” that she was the same woman in the photos. Dowd shot back that he doesn’t know if it’s her or not.
Barnes also repeatedly asked Dowd if the governor is going to testify before the committee, to which he replied that he does not know at this time.
Late Thursday, attorney Catherine Hanaway, representing the group Greitens for Missouri, blasted Barnes’ leadership of the House committee in a written statement.
She’s accusing him of not revealing that he received a copy of the “secret recordings” before being appointed chair of the committee, of not disclosing knowledge of the cash payments to Watkins ahead of time, and of talking to the FBI while the committee’s investigation is still ongoing.
“He's been talking to the FBI about alleged foreign donors to the campaign – that allegation is completely false, and it's based exclusively on the dubious testimony of a single witness,” Hanaway said. “Despite the hard work of fellow members of this committee apparently in search of the truth, Chairman Barnes has made himself a material witness in this investigation.”
In a statement, Chip Robertson, who serves as counsel for the committee, said Hanaway should have been thanking Barnes for not using his posession of the recordings to attack Greitens or influence committee members.
"What cannot be denied is that once those members heard the evidence, even the members who had been early supporters of Eric Greitens, unanimously signed the Committee reports that, again unanimously, found that [the woman] was a credible Witness," Robertson said. "And what cannot be denied is that Eric Greitens has yet to make any statement under oath denying any aspect of [the woman]’s testimony or any other evidence outlined in the committee's reports."
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