STL News: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens at Risk of Losing Republican Support

Indicted Missouri Governor Eric Greitens  Steps Down from GOP Governors Group Leadership Position

(STL.News) Sounding somewhat like a TV Soap Opera, news on the unconventional drama surrounding Missouri Governor Eric Greitens continues to pour out.  Documents filed in the beleaguered Republicans’ felony case offer a defense and attempt to explain why he has refused to definitively say whether he ever photographed a woman with whom he cheated on his wife.

Thursday, a grand jury handed down a one-count indictment in St. Louis city court accusing the 43-year-old governor of felony invasion of privacy.  Shortly after Greitens admitted to the extramarital affair last January, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner began an investigation into the allegations.  On Thursday, Greitens was arrested and later released on his own recognizance.

At issue is a March 2015 incident with a woman whom he was having an affair with while running for office.  Greitens admitted to the affair, but repeatedly denied the allegation that he tied her up and took a photo of her blindfolded and partially nude.  He has also denied blackmailing the woman, but declined to say whether he took a photo.

Essential to the case is a recorded conversation between the woman and her ex-husband, who apparently recorded her admission and portrayal of the liaison with Greitens without her knowledge.  The ex-husband’s attorney then released the tape to the media with a statement saying his client has no political motivation.

Greitens has maintained his innocence saying the relationship was consensual and there was never any threat of using a photograph to blackmail the woman into secrecy.

The Missouri GOP and Greitens say the case is politically motivated and called St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who brought the indictment, a “reckless liberal prosecutor.”  A spokeswoman for Gardner said in a statement on Friday that the prosecutor will not “litigate this case in the media.”

In a statement Thursday, Greitens said he looked forward to the charges being reversed.  “As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor.  I did not commit a crime,” his statement read.  “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.  The people of Missouri deserve better than a reckless liberal prosecutor who uses her office to score political points.  I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action.  This will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri.”

While the state Republican Party continues to support Greitens, some lawmakers, including a few Republicans, are calling on him to resign or face legislative impeachment proceedings.

Five Senate Republicans that have said publicly that Greitens should resign, include Senators Gary Romine, R-Farmington, Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, Kevin Engler, R-Farmington and Becky Ruth, R-Festus.

The Senate’s second-highest ranking member, Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, stopped short of calling for Greitens to resign, but said, “His actions have damaged the reputation of the office.”

Two Republicans went on the record Friday.  Senator Ed Emery, R-Lamar issued this statement: “It is important to understand that no defense is presented to the grand jury.  Their charge is to determine whether there is a basis for trial.  They neither try nor convict.  The governor will have his time in court which is when guilt or innocence is decided. ”

Senator Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg made his feelings known in a statement: “As your state senator it is not my role to be judge nor jury.  However, I do believe it will be difficult for the governor to lead and govern our state while these charges are pending.  The governor must not only do what is right for the State of Missouri, but also what is right for his children and his wife.”

Other Republicans remained reserved in their judgment but expressed support for a legislative investigation into Greitens that was announced Thursday by GOP House leaders.

Senate Minority Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors said: “Too often, women in our state and nation are subject to intimidation, threats and even violence at the hands of those in power.  No more.  It’s time our state takes a stand and ensures that women everywhere are able to seek the justice and equality they rightfully deserve.”

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City called on Greitens to resign: “It will be extremely difficult for the governor to effectively do his job with a felony indictment hanging over his head.” Rep. Stacey Newman of Richmond Heights, in a local television interview, called the indictment a “stain on Missouri.  We want to be proud of our state and our government and we’re not.”

In response to the governor being indicted on felony charges, Senator Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, issued the following statement.  “None of us takes pleasure in someone else’s downfall.  The indictment will be handled through the judicial system and the Governor will be afforded due process.  The Governor’s personal indiscretions and lack of judgment cannot be allowed to get in the way of government policy and service to Missourians.”

Greitens is no stranger to controversy, touching off political disputes even before acknowledging an extramarital affair and facing disturbing allegations that he blackmailed the woman involved.  Questions have been raised about “dark money” campaign contributions, and there is an ongoing investigation into his use of a secretive app that deletes messages.

Due to his current situation, Greitens resigned his National Republican Governors Association leadership position and canceled plans to attend this weekend’s meeting in Washington.

Governor Eric Greitens, who campaigned on a platform of family values, is a married father of two young boys.  The Rhodes Scholar and former Navy SEAL was once considered a rising star in Republican politics, but is now feeling heat from both sides of the aisle.

If convicted, Greitens faces a maximum four years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

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