Pence scuttled his visit at the last possible moment — while he was aboard Air Force Two in Washington, D.C.

By Adam Carlson
July 24, 2019 11:19 AM
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty; Paul Hawthorne/WireImage

It was a “very interesting” mystery earlier this month that even President Donald Trump discussed, promising answers in “about two weeks.”

And so, on Monday, the story behind Vice President Mike Pence‘s abrupt cancellation of a trip to New Hampshire was revealed: first by Politico and then The New York Times.

Pence, 60, reportedly scuttled his visit at the last possible moment — while he was aboard Air Force Two in Washington, D.C. The quick change and lack of details, despite insistence by the White House that there was “no cause for concern,” fueled speculation that Pence stayed in D.C. for a serious reason such as a national security issue, according to Politico.

“There was a very interesting problem that they had in New Hampshire,” President Trump told reporters days later.

“I can’t tell you about it,” he said, but “you’ll see in a week or two.”

According to Politico and the Times, Pence’s office had learned that if he went to New Hampshire, where he was planning to highlight the opioid epidemic, he was likely going to meet with a former professional football player who was under federal investigation for drug crimes.

That man, Jeff Hatch, has since pleaded guilty to one count of using a phone to facilitate the distribution of fentanyl, according to court documents reviewed by PEOPLE.

Had Pence gone to New Hampshire, Hatch “was expected to greet [him] at the airport,” the Times reported.

In exchange for Hatch’s plea, the government said it would recommend a lower sentence. He faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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Hatch played in the NFL from 2002 to 2005, but he only appeared in games during that first season with the New York Giants.

He later became an outspoken voice detailing the dangers and pervasiveness — the seduction — of the opioid epidemic, and he worked in substance abuse treatment after rehab himself. He has said he began taking pain pills after a football injury.

“The bottom line is that there’s a huge problem with opiates in the NFL,” he said in 2016. “You’re asked to be superhuman and you have 300-pond men running into each other at full speed 65 times in a row. A lot of people end up on opiates to help control the pain they’re in.”

Speaking with high school students in 2017, he said, “It’s very important for me as we move toward a solution for this opiate problem that we defeat the stigma that surrounds it. A lot of times people put a face on who they think suffers from this problem and this disease, and one of the goals I have is I want people to understand that it really does cross all classes, all races and all faces.”

“For you guys, it might serve you better if I were to tell you I was 16 and I had a problem with opiates, but the reality is that wasn’t the case,” Hatch told students in 2017. “I remember getting that bottle of pills and on that bottle it said you take one to two ever four to six hours as needed for pain. And I remembered my experience with other drugs and realized that amount would cure my physical pain, a few more would kill the emotional pain.”

In July of that same year, federal prosecutors say in court papers, Hatch was actually working as a courier for a Manchester drug dealer and used a phone to arrange a pickup of 1,500 grams of fentanyl from a supplier in Massachusetts.

“I’m an addict and an alcoholic,” he said in 2016. “Opiates was the substance that made me the most comfortable in my skin, which is the ultimate goal for those of us who have the disease. That’s what we’re looking for.”

A listed attorney for Hatch did not return a call seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the vice president declined to comment, referring questions to the Department of Justice.