Eric Greitens, Missouri’s embattled Republican governor, announced he would resign Tuesday, yielding to the pressure of two months-long criminal prosecutions and the increasing threat of impeachment.
“It’s clear for the forces that oppose us, there’s no end in sight,” Greitens said in a press conference. “I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love.”
Greitens denied all criminal wrongdoing, saying, “I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws or offense worthy of this treatment.”
The governor said he would “always be a fighter for the people of Missouri” and “may God continue to bless you and to bless the great state of Missouri.”
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes Scholar, was seen as a rising Republican star until January when he was forced to admit to an extra-martial affair from 2015. His partner in that affair accused the governor of taking and threatening to expose compromising photos of their sexual escapades if she disclosed their relationship, leading to a felony invasion of privacy charge in February. The woman also accused Greitens of “coercing” sex from her on several occasions, but no prosecutor has sought sexual assault charges.
Determined to fight the charge, Greitens refused to step aside. Then a second criminal investigation resulted in felony charges, alleging the governor improperly used a charity mailing list for fundraising during his campaign.
While Greitens has not yet been convicted of any crime, the political winds in Missouri, where Republicans are waging a critical U.S. Senate race against vulnerable Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, have turned decisively against him. The Republican-controlled Missouri legislature voted to convene a special session to consider impeachment and the front-runner to take on McCaskill, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley called for Grietens to step down.
Greitens’s fortunes appeared to improve the week before last, when a successful motion to put St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner on the stand led to the invasion of privacy charge against him being dropped. Gardner, the prosecutor who pursued the charge, had close ties both to national left-wing political outfits and Democrats in the Missouri legislature, leading Greitens and his supporters to characterize his prosecution as a politically motivated witch hunt.
But, despite his momentary respite, political support for Greitens continued to erode, especially as the scandal around him came to be seen as a liability for the Hawley-McCaskill race. Tuesday morning, for example, another national Republican operative, former White House strategist and Trump campaign war room director Andrew Surabian, called on Greitens to resign on the grounds of political expediency.
“If Greitens truly cares about the Trump agenda, the Republican Party and the people he serves in Missouri, he won’t wait for a drawn-out impeachment process,” Surabian wrote in an op-ed. “Rather, he will resign immediately so that Republicans can move on from the dark cloud caused by his administration and get on with the hard work of fighting to make America great again.”
Tuesday evening, Greitens yielded to the overwhelming pressure and did just that, effective Friday.