He may face backlash for his extramarital affair with Maria Belen Chapur and pressure to resign, but South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford today offered more details of their relationship, telling the Associated Press he saw his Argentinean mistress five times in the past year.
Sanford also told the AP he "crossed lines" with women other than his mistress but never had sex with them, adding that he "let his guard down" with some physical contact. He said Chapur is his soul mate, but he will try to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny Sanford.
Sanford's office would not comment other than to say they will "let the AP report stand."
In the wake of today's admissions, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster issued a statement saying he has requested the State Law Enforcement Division to review all of Sanford's travel records to see if any laws have been broken or if any state funds have been misused.
The governor released a statement this afternoon saying he welcomes the investigation, which will clear speculation about whether he used state money, and added that he plans to cooperate fully.
In what the news agency described as a long and emotional interview, Sanford, the father of four boys, said he spent two nights with the former producer in Manhattan in September 2008 and again in the Hamptons for three November days. Sanford and Chapur met again in the city this year in what was to be a farewell meeting, chaperoned by a spiritual adviser, after Sanford's wife found out about the affair in January.
The governor first met the now 41-year-old Argentinean woman -- described as "refined and professional" by her friends in Buenos Aires -- for the first time in 2001 at an open-air dance spot in Uruguay, the governor told the AP.
Sanford, who was serving his final term in Congress at the time, said the two began corresponding by e-mail after meeting on the dance floor.
"There was some kind of connection from the very beginning," he told The Associated Press, adding that he advised her that night on her failing marriage.
He then met her for a coffee date in New York in 2004 during the Republican National Convention. Sanford told the AP that neither of the first two meetings was romantic.
In a tearful press conference June 24, 2009, Sanford said his eight-year-long friendship with Chapur became romantic only in the last year. In today's AP interview he revealed the relationship turned physical during a 2008 state economic development trip to South America, a trip for which he is reimbursing state money used on his tickets and other expenses.
"Now I am frightened," he told the AP, describing his state of mind after the first physical encounter. "It was before safe. But now it's not safe. We gotta put the genie back in the bottle."
In impassioned e-mails -- obtained by The State, South Carolina's largest daily newspaper -- Sanford agonized over the two's "hopelessly impossible situation of love," as Chapur wrote, "You are my love. ... Sometimes you don't choose things, they just happen. ... I can't redirect my feelings, and I am very happy with mine toward you."