A seven-member Missouri House select committee will conduct an investigation that could result in the impeachment of Gov. Eric Greitens (R) following his arrest and indictment on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
Greitens was indicted by a St. Louis grand jury Feb. 22 on the felony charge, a few weeks after the Republican admitted having an extramarital affair with a woman in 2015.
But that’s not illegal – immoral perhaps, but not illegal.
However, as PJM reported, Greitens was accused of trying to blackmail a former lover, before he was elected governor, with a partially nude photo he took of the woman while she was blindfolded and tied to a piece of exercise equipment.
Allegedly, Greitens then threatened to post her picture on the internet if she told anyone about their affair, a charge that he has consistently denied.
That allegation resulted in Greitens’ arrest and indictment. Greitens is not only accused of taking the photo but with transmitting the picture “in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.”
After being fingerprinted and booked, Greitens released a statement that said although the former Rhodes scholar “made a personal mistake,” he “did not commit a crime.”
House Speaker Todd Richardson spent last weekend selecting the committee’s members before setting them to work Monday. The panel will be chaired by Rep. Jay Barnes (R).
“Our focus is going to be on the underlying facts of the indictment and the circumstances surrounding them,” Barnes said. “This committee’s task is going to investigate facts. We’re going to do so in a way that is fair, thorough and timely.”
Greitens has steadfastly refused to resign because of the scandal, writing in a Facebook post that the indictment against him “will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri.”
Rep. Jean Evans (R) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch some lawmakers are circulating a petition calling on Greitens to leave office. Evans hasn’t put her name to the document yet, but she said the whole thing is a distraction and is hurting the legislative process in Jefferson City.
“It’s not people gossiping in the hallways,” Evans said. “It’s legitimate time constraints.”
Democratic state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed told the Kansas City Star that Greitens “has to go.”
“Missourians thought they voted for a person of character and integrity, and instead they got a liar and alleged criminal,” Nasheed said.
In a Facebook post, Greitens blamed “a reckless liberal prosecutor (Democratic St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner) who uses her office to score political points” for his arrest and indictment.
“With today’s disappointing and misguided political decision, my confidence in our prosecutorial system is shaken, but not broken. I know this will be righted soon,” Greitens added. “I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action.”
The Springfield News-Leader reported Greitens used his political campaign committee’s money to send out an email making the case that Democratic Party mega-donor George Soros, who Breitbart News proclaimed had declared “war on the state of Missouri,” had donated $191,000 to Gardner’s election campaign.
“As I have stated before, it is essential for residents of the City of St. Louis and our state to have confidence in their leaders,” Gardner said in a statement. “They must know that the Office of the Circuit Attorney will hold public officials accountable in the same manner as any other resident of our city. Both parties and the people of St. Louis deserve a thorough investigation of these allegations.”
The felony invasion of privacy case may be only the beginning of problems that will test the former Navy Seal who’s now the governor of Missouri.
Gardner’s team enraged defense attorneys when they said during a circuit court hearing Feb. 26 that their investigation of Greitens could wind up covering allegations beyond the original charge.
“Once you have an indictment, that’s it,” said Jack Garvey, a member of the Greitens defense team.
Sen. Nasheed told the New York Times that if Greitens does not leave office voluntarily “the people of Missouri need to rise up and call for his impeachment” as “this is a big embarrassment to our state.”
Ryan Silvey, a former GOP state senator who was appointed to the Missouri Public Service Commission by Greitens, told the Times he doubts the governor will be in office much longer.
“He doesn’t really have a lot of deep relationships in the Legislature to begin with,” Silvey said. “I don’t see how he can effectively govern in the current situation. I think that it would probably be best for the party and for the state if he were to resign.”