Utah taxpayers paid for hotel linked to prostitute report

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:40 AM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:39 AM


            FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2017, photo, Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, votes on the House floor, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The Utah House of Representatives is investigating whether a lawmaker who abruptly resigned used a state-issued cellphone and hotel room paid for with taxpayer money to arrange trysts with a prostitute. House Speaker Greg Hughes declined to comment on a Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, report in British newspaper the Daily Mail that former Republican Rep. Stanard twice hired a prostitute in 2017. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2017, photo, Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George, votes on the House floor, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The Utah House of Representatives is investigating whether a lawmaker who abruptly resigned used a state-issued cellphone and hotel room paid for with taxpayer money to arrange trysts with a prostitute. House Speaker Greg Hughes declined to comment on a Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, report in British newspaper the Daily Mail that former Republican Rep. Stanard twice hired a prostitute in 2017. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

A former Utah lawmaker purchased at least two hotel rooms with taxpayer money that he is accused of using to meet up with a prostitute last year, according to documents reviewed by a legislative official.

The DailyMail.com reported allegations Thursday that former Republican Rep. Jon Stanard twice hired a prostitute last year, leading House and state elections officials to review whether public funds or campaign money were used for hotel stays that the report alleges Stanard used for the trysts.

House Chief of Staff Greg Hartley told The Associated Press in a text message that Stanard, who abruptly resigned Tuesday, was reimbursed for hotel rooms in Salt Lake City in June and August 2017 when he was attending legislative meetings at the state Capitol. He lives four hours away in the resort town of St. George.

The dates and hotel names correspond with text messages reported by the DailyMail.com.

Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes said he didn't yet know if the House would ask Stanard to return the money.

"If there has been an abuse of public funds or if public funds were used in a way that's inappropriate, we would," Hughes said. "I don't have solid answers for those things. I would need to have a way that I would know conclusively that that is the case."

Phone and text messages to Stanard's personal cellphone were not returned, but it indicated he read the texts seeking comment. His lawyer, Wally Bugden, declined to comment and did not respond to a follow-up email asking if he was denying the allegations.

Hughes said he did not yet know the House's next steps to determine if the report was correct.

It was unclear if legislative leaders would be able to check whether Stanard used a state-issued cellphone to arrange encounters with the prostitute because it had been erased and no longer contained his text messages.

Hughes said he assumed Stanard erased his phone, not staffers, and he didn't know if there was a way to recover the texts.

House officials said they can't launch an ethics investigation because Stanard is no longer a lawmaker.

Stanard, who is married, had served five years in the House. He voted last year for stricter state prostitution laws, including raising the penalty for people who are convicted twice of solicitation.

The House announced his resignation Wednesday for "personal and family concerns" but did not offer details. That day, Stanard told the AP in a text message: "My father has terminal cancer and I am going to spend a few weeks with him out of state while I still can."

He did not offer additional information.

The DailyMail.com reported that a prostitute, Brie Taylor, said Stanard twice paid her for sex last year during business trips to Salt Lake City and that he arranged the meetings with a number for a state-issued phone listed on his legislative profile.

The news site posted screenshots of messages that Taylor said came from Stanard, but the phone number was blurred out.

Taylor did not respond to a text message asking her to confirm the phone number and declined to speak with the AP.

Stanard's 2017 campaign finance report shows he submitted an expense on March 10 for $1,510 for "extra hotel expense session lodging" at the "Marriott Residence."

Text messages in the DailyMail.com story allege that Stanard was arranging for a visit with Taylor at the Marriott Residence Inn on March 8.

Utah Elections Director Justin Lee said state law bars personal use of campaign funds and that election officials were looking over Stanard's reports.

The House speaker said that when Stanard met with him Tuesday night to tell him he was resigning, "there were issues that were weighing on him. What exactly and to the nature, I wasn't aware. But it was clear that his priority was with his family and was not here."

Hughes would not say if Stanard spoke about the allegations, calling it a personal conversation but "it ran the gamut of problems" and "I did not know there was a story coming, I'll just say that."

Salt Lake City police say they have no record related to solicitation allegations against Stanard. Unified Police Department of Salt Lake County said it had no record of contact with him.

"I was absolutely shocked. I had never heard anything, there was nothing in my interaction — I sit next to him on the House floor — nothing in my interaction that's ever suggesting anything even remotely close to what we're seeing today," GOP Rep. Mike McKell said.

___

Associated Press writers Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.

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Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

Robert Mueller - Fast Facts

An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

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House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Who is Rob Porter?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

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Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

>> Related: White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says

Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.

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Veteran resident dies, receives patriotic farewell from nursing home

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
File image of the American flag.(Christopher Bruno, Freeimages)

A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

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In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

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Trump thanks Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats

Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM

President Donald Trump walks to Marine One before departing from the White House on August 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Bedminster, N.J. for his summer break. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One before departing from the White House on August 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Bedminster, N.J. for his summer break. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.

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“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”

The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.

Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.

“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.

Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.

“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.

According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”

Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.

Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”

Vladimir Putin - Fast Facts

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