Mis­souri gov­er­nor re­signs amid widen­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions

Starkville Daily News - - COMICS -

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mis­souri Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens, a some­times brash po­lit­i­cal out­sider whose un­con­ven­tional re­sume as a Rhodes scholar and Navy SEAL of­fi­cer made him a ris­ing star in the Re­pub­li­can Party, re­signed Tues­day amid a widen­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion that arose from an af­fair with his former hair­dresser.

The 44-year-old gov­er­nor spent nearly six months fight­ing to stay in of­fice after the af­fair be­came pub­lic in Jan­uary in a tele­vi­sion news re­port that aired im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing his State of the State ad­dress. The probes into his con­duct by pros­e­cu­tors and law­mak­ers be­gan with al­le­ga­tions stem­ming from the af­fair and ex­panded to in­clude ques­tions about whether he vi­o­lated cam­paign-fi­nance laws.

Gre­it­ens said his res­ig­na­tion would take ef­fect Fri­day.

“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 from his Jefferson City of­fice, his voice break­ing at times.

He said he could not “al­low those forces to con­tinue to cause pain and dif­fi­culty to the peo­ple that I love.”

Law­mak­ers pres­sur­ing Gre­it­ens to step down in­cluded many Re­pub­li­cans, who feared that his trou­bles could jeop­ar­dize the GOP's chances of de­feat­ing in­cum­bent Demo­crat Sen. Claire McCaskill in a race con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to the party's hopes of keep­ing con­trol of the Se­nate.

The lo­cal St. Louis pros­e­cu­tor's of­fice said it had reached a “fair and just res­o­lu­tion” on crim­i­nal charges against Gre­it­ens now that he's leav­ing of­fice. But the pros­e­cu­tor said de­tails would not be made pub­lic un­til Wed­nes­day.

A St. Louis grand jury in­dicted Gre­it­ens on Feb. 22 on one felony count of in­va­sion of pri­vacy for al­legedly tak­ing and trans­mit­ting a photo of the woman with­out her con­sent at his home in 2015, be­fore he was elected gov­er­nor. The charge was dis­missed dur­ing jury se­lec­tion, but a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor from Kansas City is con­sid­er­ing whether to re­file charges and said Tues­day that her in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing.

In April, the St. Louis pros­e­cu­tor, Kim Gard­ner, charged Gre­it­ens with an­other felony, al­leg­ing that he im­prop­erly used the donor list for a char­ity that he had founded to raise money for his 2016 cam­paign.

Then less than two weeks ago, the Mis­souri Leg­is­la­ture be­gan meet­ing in spe­cial ses­sion to con­sider whether to pur­sue im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings to try to oust Gre­it­ens from of­fice. A spe­cial House in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee had sub­poe­naed Gre­it­ens to tes­tify next Mon­day.

Two peo­ple with close ties to Re­pub­li­can of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton and Mis­souri told The As­so­ci­ated Press there was no co­or­di­nated ef­fort to push Gre­it­ens out.

The gov­er­nor's brash­ness had alien­ated some GOP leg­is­la­tors even be­fore his af­fair be­came pub­lic. Se­nate Lead­er­ship Fund Pres­i­dent Steven Law said the res­ig­na­tion could help unify Mis­souri Re­pub­li­cans and free up money.

In Jan­uary, the woman's ex-hus­band re­leased a se­cretly recorded con­ver­sa­tion from 2015 in which she de­scribed the af­fair, which hap­pened shortly after Gre­it­ens cre­ated an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee to run for of­fice. The woman later told the House com­mit­tee that Gre­it­ens re­strained, slapped, shoved and threat­ened her dur­ing a series of sex­ual en­coun­ters that at times left her cry­ing and afraid.

Gre­it­ens said the al­le­ga­tions amounted to a “po­lit­i­cal witch hunt” and vowed to stay in of­fice. But a re­port from the House com­mit­tee cre­ated a firestorm, with both Re­pub­li­cans and Democrats call­ing for his res­ig­na­tion.

Even while re­sign­ing, Gre­it­ens re­mained de­fi­ant.

“I am not per­fect. But I have not bro­ken any laws or com­mit­ted any of­fense wor­thy of this treat­ment,” he said. “I will let the fair­ness of this process be judged by his­tory.”

His de­par­ture will el­e­vate fel­low Re­pub­li­can Lt. Gov. Mike Par­son — a former state law­maker and sher­iff — to the gov­er­nor's of­fice.

Par­son, who will serve the re­main­der of Gre­it­ens' term through Jan­uary 2020, pledged to carry out his new du­ties “with honor and in­tegrity.” He said Gre­it­ens' res­ig­na­tion “will al­low our state to heal and move for­ward from what has been a dif­fi­cult time.”

The Gre­it­ens ad­min­is­tra­tion was thrown into chaos the night of Jan. 10, when a St. Louis TV sta­tion aired a re­port about Gre­it­ens al­legedly tak­ing the com­pro­mis­ing photo and threat­en­ing to black­mail the woman if she ever spoke of their en­counter.

The gov­er­nor ad­mit­ted to hav­ing an af­fair but de­nied any crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing. He said the crim­i­nal case was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and called Gard­ner, a Demo­crat, a “reck­less lib­eral pros­e­cu­tor.”

The House au­tho­rized the leg­isla­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion a week after the in­dict­ment.

Mis­souri At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Haw­ley also launched an inquiry into a vet­er­ans' char­ity Gre­it­ens founded. Fed­eral law bars 501(c)(3) char­i­ties such as The Mis­sion Con­tin­ues from in­ter­ven­ing in po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns on be­half of can­di­dates.

The As­so­ci­ated Press first re­ported in Oc­to­ber 2016 that Gre­it­ens' cam­paign had ob­tained a list of in­di­vid­u­als, cor­po­ra­tions and other non­prof­its that had given at least $1,000 to The Mis­sion Con­tin­ues. The AP re­ported that Gre­it­ens raised about $2 mil­lion from those who had pre­vi­ously given sig­nif­i­cant amounts to the char­ity.

Haw­ley, a Re­pub­li­can run­ning for U.S. Se­nate, turned ev­i­dence over to Gard­ner, say­ing April 17 that he be­lieved Gre­it­ens had bro­ken the law. Her of­fice charged him with tam­per­ing with com­puter data for al­legedly dis­clos­ing the donor list with­out the char­ity's per­mis­sion.

A May 2 re­port from the House in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee in­di­cated that Gre­it­ens him­self re­ceived the donor list and later di­rected aides to work off it to raise money for his gu­ber­na­to­rial cam­paign. Former cam­paign aide Danny Laub tes­ti­fied that he was duped into tak­ing the fall when the cam­paign tried to ex­plain how it had got­ten the list.

Ear­lier Tues­day, the House panel had heard a sec­ond round of tes­ti­mony from Gre­it­ens cam­paign aide Michael Hafner, who said Gre­it­ens had in­structed him to use the char­ity donor list for po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing.

The in­va­sion-of-pri­vacy in­dict­ment al­leged that on March 21, 2015, Gre­it­ens pho­tographed the woman and trans­mit­ted the photo “in a man­ner that al­lowed ac­cess to that image via a com­puter.”

Dur­ing her tes­ti­mony to the House com­mit­tee, the woman said Gre­it­ens in­vited her to his home and of­fered to show her “how to do a proper pull-up.” The woman said she ini­tially thought “this is go­ing to be some sort of sexy work­out.”

But once in his base­ment, Gre­it­ens taped her hands to pull-up rings, blind­folded her, and started kiss­ing and dis­rob­ing her with­out her con­sent, ac­cord­ing to her tes­ti­mony.

Then she saw a flash and heard a click, like a cell­phone cam­era, she said. The woman tes­ti­fied that Gre­it­ens told her: “Don't even men­tion my name to any­body at all, be­cause if you do, I'm go­ing to take these pic­tures, and I'm go­ing to put them ev­ery­where I can. They are go­ing to be ev­ery­where, and then ev­ery­one will know what a lit­tle whore you are.”

Gre­it­ens, a mar­ried fa­ther of two young boys, re­peat­edly de­nied black­mail­ing the woman. He de­clined to say whether he took a photo, and pros­e­cu­tors ac­knowl­edged in court that they had not found a photo.

The gov­er­nor, who also served as a White House fel­low and wrote a best-sell­ing book, won an ex­pen­sive Re­pub­li­can pri­mary in 2016, then de­feated Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Chris Koster in the gen­eral elec­tion to give Re­pub­li­cans con­trol of the gov­er­nor's man­sion for the first time in eight years. Some con­sid­ered him a po­ten­tial fu­ture pres­i­den­tial con­tender.

(AP Photo/Jeff Rober­son, File)

In this May 17, 2018 file photo, Mis­souri Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens looks on be­fore speak­ing at an event near the capi­tol in Jefferson City, Mo. Gre­it­ens, a some­times brash out­sider whose un­con­ven­tional re­sume as a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL of­fi­cer made...

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