S.C. Gov.'s Rival Ups Calls for Criminal Probe Into Sanford

Amid uncertainty over whether South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford broke the law and used state money in his trips to see his mistress in Argentina, the governor's chief rival told ABC News today that he'll pursue a criminal prosecution, even if he has to go to Washington, D.C.

Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts last week asked South Carolina prosecutors to launch a criminal probe. Knotts told ABC News he plans to pursue an investigation in the state legislature, the state attorney general's office and possibly even a federal probe.

"When you can't get results in your own state, there is a justice department in Washington," Knotts told ABC News. "I don't want to go that route. I want us to wash our own laundry and clean up our own act."

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But Knotts added that he would go to the nation's capital, if necessary.

"Somebody's gonna look at this," Knotts said. "Somebody's gonna look to the bottom of it, and somebody's gonna give me some answers."

Knotts and others accuse the governor of leaving the state to visit his mistress without turning over control and charging taxpayers for an earlier stop in Argentina where he visited her. Sanford said last week he'll repay more than $8,000 for that stop, which he claimed was strictly a trade trip set up by state commerce officials.

State prosecutors say so far there's nothing to investigate.

"At this point we have not launched an investigation," Reggie Lloyd, director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, told ABC News. "We don't anticipate it unless somebody brought us new facts."

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The South Carolina legislature, which can call for an investigation, is not in session until January. It can be called into a special session, but staffers said there has so far been little talk about that. In the legislature's absence, the attorney general can call a probe, but some say that's unlikely.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster are considered frontrunners in the state's governor race next year.

Baure told The Associated Press last week that Sanford should stay in office but admitted that he would have an advantage in the election if Sanford resigned.

Meanwhile, Sanford's office said he intends to remain in office for the remaining 18 months of his term, even though he initially considered resigning.

"Given everything that has gone on, it's obviously something he considered, but he's determined to serve out his term," Sanford's communication director Joel Sawyer told ABC.

Mark Sanford Holds on to His Turf

Sanford, who announced last Wednesday that he had a year-long affair with a woman in Argentina, told The Associated Press today that he spoke with close spiritual and political associates who advised him to fight to restore the public's and his family's trust in him.

"Resigning would be the easiest thing to do," he said, but added that he won't quit and has to "go through that voyage over the next 18 months."

The governor's wife, Jenny Sanford, has said whether he resigns or not is up to him.

"That is not a concern of mine," Mrs. Sanford said last week. "He's going to have to worry about that, and I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."

Sanford took a secret trip to visit his mistress a week and half ago even though he was advised by his wife of 20 years to stop the affair.

"He was told in no uncertain terms not to see her," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press Saturday. "I was hoping he was on the Appalachian Trail. But I was not worried about his safety. I was hoping he was doing some real soul searching somewhere and devastated to find out it was Argentina. It's tragic."

The mystery woman at the center of the affair has been identified by Argentinean news organizations as former television producer Maria Belen Chapur.

Today she issued a statement indirectly acknowledging that she is the woman with whom Sanford had the affair.

Though she said only that she would not discuss her private life, she discussed in detail what she said she knows about how her email account was hacked, which led to Sanford's emails being leaked to the press and published last week in The State newspaper.

Her silence with regard to the affair stands in marked contrast to Sanford's repeated -- and pained -- public confessions.

Last Wednesday, Sanford convened a press conference and apologized profusely to his family, friends and staff, who he did not inform that he was going to Argentina, instead telling them he might go hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford and Chapur's impassioned e-mails -- obtained by The State, South Carolina's largest daily newspaper -- became front-page headlines across continents. According to The New York Times, they were sent to The State by a romantic rival who once dated Chapur.

Mark Sanford's Wife Says 'Life Goes On'

The disclosure of the affair has led to prolonged public embarrassment and repeated calls for his resignation and a criminal probe into whether he used public funds to go to Argentina to meet her.

Sanford has promised to return to the state money for his trip to Argentina last year, which he insisted was strictly for business purposes.

But many say Sanford could well survive to serve out his remaining 18 months.

Despite Knotts' vow to seek prosecution of Sanford, and official with South Carolina's law enforcement division said, "We do not believe that there will be an investigation launched."

"He was going to be a lame duck as it was and now there's a possibility he could be the lamest lame duck we've ever had in South Carolina," said Warren Bolton, associate editor of The State.

The daily revelations and uncertainties have taken their toll on the governor.

"It's gonna be something I'm gonna think about, pray about, talk to my friends about over the days and weeks ahead," Sanford said.

Many South Carolinians say they've seen a new role model -- a remarkably poised first lady Jenny Sanford.

"Life goes on, right?" she said, with a laugh. "So our life goes on, too."

"I've gotten calls from folks who appreciate the fact she didn't go and stand by her man, so to speak, but let the governor go out there and take his medicine," Bolton said.

"We talked about the basic things you would expect me to talk about," Jenny Sanford said when cameras caught up with her during a bike ride.