Republican Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, facing two separate scandals and felony prosecutions, will face impeachment at a special session of the GOP-controlled Missouri legislature.
On Thursday, leaders from the Missouri House and Senate held a press conference in Jefferson City, the state capital, at which they announced the special session, the first in Missouri history according to Speaker of the House Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff). Apparently after having secured the necessary three-quarters of votes in each chamber, the special sessions will begin May 18, just as the regular session is scheduled to adjourn and four days after his criminal trial begins.
Greitens stands indicted on a felony charge stemming from an extra-marital affair he admits to. His accuser, a hairdresser with whom Greitens had sex several times in 2015 claims the then-Navy Reserve officer Greitens violently initiated the sexual encounter and then took photographs of the pair, threatening to release them if she spoke about their affair. He is not accused of sexual assault, but of invasion of privacy based on his alleged taking of the photograph.
While calls for his resignation or impeachment were already flowing from Missouri Democrats after this first scandal, Greitens maintained the support of many Missouri conservatives who suspected the charges – brought by left-wing St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner – were politically motivated. The lack of a police report and questions about the accuser’s recollection bolstered this skepticism.
Greitens’s political situation, however, deteriorated significantly after prosecutors in St. Louis unveiled a second, unrelated set of felony charges against the governor, based this time on his alleged use of a charity donor list from The Mission Continues, a veteran-focused non-profit he co-founded, for his campaign in violation of election laws.
The investigation into the alleged donor list misconduct was handled in part by Missouri’s second most prominent Republican state Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, bringing the two publicly into conflict for the first time. Hawley called on Greitens to resign shortly thereafter.
As evidenced by the vote for a special session, Greiten’s support among Missouri Republicans has eroded to the point where at least a sizable minority are prepared to consider impeachment. “This path is not the one that I would have chosen for Missourians or my colleagues,” Speaker Richardson told reporters at Thursday’s press conference. “I hoped from the beginning of this process that the committee would find no wrongdoing, so we could bring this investigation to a close and put all of our attention on the issues that matter most to Missouri families.”
“Unfortunately, this is where the facts led,” Richardson concluded, partially in reference to the damning but still disputed Missouri House Investigatory Committee report that found his invasion of privacy accuser largely credible.
Greitens, who in addition to serving as a Navy SEAL was a Rhodes Scholar and a White House Fellow, was seen as a major up-and-comer in the Republican Party before his indictment. He still maintains his innocence in both scandals. He issued a statement last month on Facebook in which he claimed:
Two months ago, a prosecutor brought a case against me.
Her original case is falling apart—so today, she’s brought a new one. By now, everyone knows what this is: this prosecutor will use any charge she can to smear me.
I will have my day in court. I will clear my name. This prosecutor can come after me with everything she’s got, but as all faithful people know: in time comes the truth. And the time for truth is coming.
Catherine Hanaway, Greitens’s campaign counsel and a former Speaker of the Missouri House, penned a similar statement with regard to the Mission Continues allegations. It dismisses the latest report of the Missouri House Investigative Committee, saying, “The sum and substance of the first 70 or so paragraphs outline a charge—that The Mission Continues list was used for campaign purposes—considered and resolved a year ago by the MEC with a $100 fine, less than most speeding tickets.”