REPORT INTENSIFIES PRESSURE FOR GREITENS TO RESIGN
Calls for embattled Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to resign increased drastically on April 11 following the public release of a House investigative report containing testimony portraying Greitens as abusive and sexually coercive. While the report could serve as a basis for possible impeachment, the House committee that prepared it is continuing to investigate other, unrelated allegations of wrongdoing against Greitens.
Greitens repeatedly has admitted to having had a consensual extramarital affair in 2015, and media coverage since the story broke in January has characterized it as such. However, the testimony of the woman involved paints a far different picture, with Greitens behaving in a manipulative, controlling and occasionally violent manner and the sexual contact between the two being coerced rather than consensual.
In its report, the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, which consists of five Republicans and two Democrats, found the woman’s testimony to be credible. Greitens has declined multiple invitations to tell the committee his version of events. In a brief statement to news reporters in his office about an hour before the report’s release, Greitens characterized the report as including “lies and falsehoods,” complained that it didn’t include his side of the story and attacked the integrity of the legislative committee. After completing his statement, Greitens left without taking questions.
The report constitutes the first component of the committee’s investigation. It will now focus on allegations that Greitens illegally obtained the donor list of a veterans’ charity he had founded and unlawfully used it to raise money for his 2016 campaign for governor. The committee also could look into other, as yet unspecified, matters.
While Democratic legislative leaders called on Greitens to resign or face possible impeachment, Republican leaders mostly were much less direct in their criticism. One notable exception was Attorney General Josh Hawley, who called the governor’s alleged conduct “shocking” and “certainly impeachable.”
If the committee’s work isn’t completed before the regular legislative session ends on May 18, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, floated possibility of the legislature calling itself into a special session this summer to continue the process. House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said talk of a special session is premature since five weeks remain for the House to pursue impeachment if it so chooses.
Greitens is set to stand trial in St. Louis on May 14 on a felony charge of first degree invasion of privacy for allegedly photographing in a state of undress without her permission the same woman who is interviewed in the House investigation.
SENATE PROPOSES TO END GIFTS, EXTEND TERM LIMITS
The Senate on April 11 voted 20-11 in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit lawmakers from accepting lobbyist gifts while also resetting and extending the clock on legislative term limits. If also approved by the House of Representatives, the measure automatically would go on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot for voter ratification.
Under the Missouri Constitution, lawmakers generally are limited to serving no more than 16 years in the General Assembly and no more than eight years in either the House or Senate. SJR 26 would lift the per-chamber cap, allowing someone to serve up to 16 years in any combination between the chambers. However, the measure also would restart the clock on term limits, applying the 16-year cap only to terms won after the November 2018 elections.
While extending general legislative term limits, SJR 26 would prohibit a lawmaker from serving more than four years in certain legislative leadership positions. In addition, the measure would impose a constitutional ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, as well as members of their office staff and close family members. Lawmakers for several years have pushed to limit lobbyist gifts in state law, but such legislation has never made it to final passage.