ST. LOUIS (KMOV/AP) – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a sometimes brash outsider whose unconventional resume as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL officer made him a rising star in Republican politics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday after a scandal involving an affair with his former hairdresser led to a broader investigation by prosecutors and state legislators.
The resignation comes amid criminal allegations and house committee probes.
The 44-year-old governor made the announcement nearly 17 months after taking the oath as Missouri's chief executive with a pledge to root out "corrupt career politicians." The investigations of him widened to include questions about whether he had violated the law in financing the campaign.
Greitens, speaking in a somber tone from his office, said it had been a "great honor and privilege to serve" the people of Missouri.
A special Missouri House committee has been investigating a variety of allegations against Greitens, including sexual misconduct and misuse of a veterans' charity donor list for his political campaign.
A source told News 4 the committee was were leaning towards considering at least five articles of impeachment against Greitens.
"I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws," Greitens said.
"This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family; millions of dollars of mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends," he said in a brief statement to the media from his Jefferson City office, his voice breaking at times.
The announcement came the same day a judge says a secretive group supporting Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens must turn over documents subpoenaed by a legislative committee trying to determine whether to bring impeachment proceedings against the Republican governor.
Greitens said he will resign on Friday evening. Missouri Lieutenant Governor Michael L. Parson will step into the job.
Republican leaders in the Missouri House say GOP Gov. Eric Greitens has "put the best interest" of the state's residents first in deciding to resign.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Leader Rob Vescovo issued a joint statement Tuesday, moments after Greitens announced he was stepping down Friday.
They said as public servants, their duty is to put the best interests of the people first and, "The Governor's decision today honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward."
The three leaders also pledged to help ensure a smooth transition to power for Lt. Gov. Mike Parson as he takes over for Greitens.
They also thanked members of a special House investigatory committee and said for their "serious and professional" manner.
Missouri Attorney Josh Hawley today issued the following statement: “Governor Greitens has done the right thing today,” Hawley said. “I wish incoming Governor Mike Parson well, and stand ready to assist him in his transition. This Office’s work for the people of Missouri goes forward.”Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who has stopped short of calling for Greitens' resignation in the past, said Tuesday: "The governor made the best decision for his family and the state. I look forward to Gov. Parson's leadership and will do everything I can to be helpful."Who is Mike Parson?
Now that Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has announced his resignation, he will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Mike Parson.
Parson, a Republican, was elected Lt. Governor in 2016. He previously held several elected offices, including state senator from the 28th district from 2011-2017.
Parson was previously a state representative and the Polk County Sheriff. He is a farmer who lives in Bolivar in southwest Missouri.
The last Missouri Lt. Gov. to succeed a governor without being elected to the higher office was Roger Wilson, who served the last few months of Mel Carnahan’s term in 2000 after Carnahan was killed in plane crash.
St. Louis prosecutor hints at resolution
Moments after Greitens' announcement, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, via her spokesperson, said they have a reached a "fair and just resolution of the pending charges." News 4 has learned this resolution pertains to the Computer Tampering allegation."I have been in contact with the Governor’s defense team over the past several days. We have reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges. We will provide more information tomorrow."The statement went on to say more will be announced Wednesday.
Moments later, the Special Prosecutor assigned to the Invasion of Privacy case, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, said the resignation will not change the course of the investigation:In an earlier statement, I said that my office will not comment about the case involving Governor Greitens or its review until our Office’s work had been completed. Given today’s events, however, we believe that a brief statement is needed.
In short, our investigation continues. In the interest of pursing justice to its fullest lengths, we will continue until our work on the case is completed.
Specifically regarding any deals we made with Governor Greitens’ attorneys, no deals were made by my office. Our review of this case, as I have stated before, will be pursued without fear or favor.
My office will not make any further comments on this case.The Mission Continues donor listIn a separate case, Greitens was charged with computer tampering, an allegation stemming from his alleged use of the donor list from his charity, The Mission Continues, to raise campaign funds. In 2016, Roy Temple filed a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint regarding Greitens’ use of that donor list, and in April of 2017, the MEC filed their report on the matter.
In the report, Greitens admitted to using the list, but said he got it from an employee named Danny Laub, who worked both for Greitens’ LLC, The Greitens Group, and his campaign Greitens for Missouri. Initially, Laub did not dispute the claim in the MEC report.
Greitens amended his campaign finance report to include the donor list, which he valued at $600. He paid a $100 fine for filing an inaccurate report, and the MEC issue was effectively closed.
When the invasion of privacy case broke, The Mission Continues donor list once again came under scrutiny.
Laub eventually testified to the Missouri House investigatory committee he was forced to take the fall for the use of the list, and that the list was given to him by another Greitens employee named Krystal Taylor.
Accusations quickly surfaced that Greitens had directed Taylor, who worked for both his LLC and The Mission Continues, to use the list for fundraising. Since The Mission Continues specifically does not allow access to the donor list for any use unrelated to the charity, the campaign using it to fundraise would be not only a campaign finance violation, but potentially a crime.
Prosecutors said if Greitens had directed someone to access the list for the use of his campaign, it would constitute computer tampering. Greitens’ defense team refuted those claims, and also argued that Greitens is responsible for the list’s existence, and therefore inseparable from it in some ways. Legal counselors from his campaign later alleged Laub stole the list to use against Greitens.
This accusation came after a PAC supporting Greitens’ primary opponent John Brunner allegedly emailed anti-Greitens messages to certain members of The Mission Continues’ donor list.
Greitens was charged by complaint not indicted by a grand jury, so he did not have to surrender himself.
Invasion of privacy case dismissedWhile questions about Greitens’ potential campaign finance violations popped up almost immediately after he took office, most interest faded after he appeared before the Missouri Ethics Commission and paid a fine.
It wasn’t until allegations of invasion of privacy surfaced that the governor was thrust into the spotlight. The allegations came from the ex-husband of a woman Greitens had an affair with 2015, before he was running for office.
The husband said he recorded a conversation with the woman in which she described an encounter with Greitens in which he took a picture of her naked and threatened to share it if she spoke out about the affair.
The woman, who has been identified only as K.S. in court filings, later testified before the Missouri House investigative committee that Greitens bound her hands to exercise equipment in March of 2015 in the basement of his St. Louis home, blindfolded her and removed her clothes before she saw a flash and heard what sounded like the click of a cellphone camera. She has said Greitens threatened to disseminate the photo if she spoke of their encounter but later told her he had deleted it.
After the story was first reported by KMOV, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed charges of invasion of privacy against Greitens. If investigators proved he transferred the photo to a computer or cloud storage account, it would be a violation of the law.
Investigators never found a photo of the woman on the phone belonging to Greitens, and were never able to determine such photo had been deleted or transferred in any way. Eventually, they announced they were no longer looking for the photo at the center of the case.
Greitens’ defense team continually criticized Gardner’s handling of the case, and in particular, her hiring of private investigator William Tisaby. Tisaby’s credibility came into question after his statements on interviews were inconsistent, and notes and video from interviews he conductedwere not promptly handed over to the defense.
Eventually, because he was considered unreliable, the defense team was able to call Gardner as a witness. A prosecutor cannot try a case in which they are also a witness, so her office dismissed charges.
"It was a great victory and it was a long time coming. This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man," Greitens said afterward. "Above all I am sorry for the pain this process and my actions have caused my family, my friends and the people of Missouri."Gardner initially vowed that a special prosecutor would be appointed and charges would be re-filed, but that has not come to pass.
Greitens’ attorneys say they don’t expect charges to be re-filed, and legal experts seem to agree.
“Given the problems with this case, the fact they don’t have a photograph, the fact they stopped looking for a photograph, the fact they don’t have anyone who saw a photograph or that it was transmitted to someone, it’s going to be a difficult case" defense attorney and legal expert Kristi Flintsaid. "I imagine there is going to be a lot of thinking before it’s filed again."
Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved