West Virginia Governor Cleared in Probe of Businesses

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks at a charity dinner in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CN) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has been cleared in a federal investigation that sought financial records from his golf resort and other businesses, his attorney said.

Justice’s personal lawyer, George Terwilliger of McGuireWoods, said in a press conference Tuesday that the probe of the Republican governor’s private businesses concluded with no finding of wrongdoing.

Last spring, the U.S. Department of Justice issued investigative subpoenas to the West Virginia Department of Commerce and Tax Departments concerning a military tribute golf tournament hosted at Justice’s Greenbrier resort.

The three subpoenas were sent by prosecutors in the public corruption unit who wanted information about the resort and the governor’s dozens of other businesses, particularly tax documents involving the state government and records of meetings.

Justice is one of West Virginia’s wealthiest residents and has roughly 100 private business interests —including coal and agricultural endeavors that have been the subject of several lawsuits over unpaid debts and safety fines throughout the years.

“We are grateful to the prosecutors for undertaking an even handed analysis to understand the facts and subsequently closing this matter,” Terwilliger said at the press conference. “We also have to note the terrible toll the investigation has taken on many innocent people and innocent interests.”

Terwilliger told reporters that while Justice was cleared, the announcement of the investigation alone caused sponsorship money for the golf tournament to dry up as business partners pulled back.

“This never should have happened,” he said. “All that we have seen shows a hardworking family led by a governor who cares deeply about the people of the state and tries to put their best efforts first.”

Terwilliger, a Justice Department veteran who served as acting attorney general in 1993, said the governor fully cooperated throughout the investigation.

“For our system to work, it is important that when someone is cleared of doing anything wrong, that gets just as much press attention and coverage as the fact that they are being investigated,” the attorney said.

Justice is also been the center of a long-running civil lawsuit brought by a Democratic state lawmaker who raised questions about Justice’s attentiveness to his position as governor. The suit accuses him of violating a provision of the West Virginia Constitution that says the governor must “reside at the seat of government.”

A Justice Department spokesperson and Terwilliger could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

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