Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday announced he is stepping down effective at 5 p.m. Friday in the face of an impeachment effort, an adverse judicial ruling and multiple criminal investigations.
“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my team, for my friends, and many, many people whom I love,” he said, saying he was the victim of “legal harassment.”
“I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment,” he said. “I love Missouri and I love our people. That love remains.”
The announcement came hours after damaging testimony by a former campaign aide to a House committee investigating Greitens, and a separate ruling by a judge forcing the governor’s campaign to reveal fundraising information.
Rumors spread Tuesday afternoon after both developments that Greitens had decided to resign. Allegations surrounding Greitens led to an unprecedented split in Greitens’ Republican Party, leaders of which led efforts to impeach him.
Earlier Tuesday, a Cole County judge ruled the governor and his allies must comply with two subpoenas from the panel seeking information about the nonprofit A New Missouri and his campaign fund — despite protests from Greitens’ legal team.
Circuit Judge Jon E. Beetem said the House committee investigating Greitens was within its rights to ask for the documents as it probes whether the Republican governor should be impeached and booted from office.
“The Court finds the requests are within the authority of the requestor,” Beetem wrote in his six-page decision. “The Court further finds and believes that time is of the essence and production should begin immediately and, absent good cause shown, said production should be completed by June 1, 2018.”
Based on the ruling, the House committee can expect to obtain communications between Greitens for Missouri and A New Missouri and policies “concerning coordination or communication between Greitens for Missouri and A New Missouri Inc.”
A New Missouri will have to turn over receipts of paid media, content of paid media and communication regarding paid media. The nonprofit will also have to turn over communications between the group and Greitens and his campaign.
The finding was a blow to Greitens’ legal team, which sought to quash the subpoenas. Catherine Hanaway, a Greitens attorney, said in a statement she was “not surprised” Beetem sided with the committee after the House narrowed down what it was seeking the court to force compliance with in anticipation for the court hearing.
Hanaway also said she was pleased the judge is allowing A New Missouri to redact the names of donors to protect their identities.
“We are considering our options for an appeal,” Hanaway said.
The House committee has said it believes the Greitens campaign and its associates may have actively worked to conceal the identity of donors, a campaign finance violation.
Former Greitens campaign adviser Michael Hafner also told the committee Tuesday that the Greitens campaign discussed soliciting donations from foreign nationals, a violation of federal law.
“There were conversations that we had where foreign money was discussed and the possibility of foreign money being contributed to an entity,” Hafner said.
Hafner left the campaign soon after and said he was not aware if those discussions continued.
Greitens’ legal team, led by Hanaway, argued last week that the special House committee’s request for documents was too sweeping and amounted to a “fishing expedition.” Hanaway said the campaign had already produced thousands of documents within a short time period. She also worried the identity of donors to A New Missouri — which has not revealed its donors — would be revealed if the House obtained its documents.
Greitens himself has been subpoenaed to testify before the committee on June 4, but his attorneys have not said whether he will comply.
Along with looking at possible campaign fundraising violations as grounds for impeachment, the committee has spent hours reviewing details of a 2015 affair Greitens had with his hairdresser.
In his testimony, Hafner outlined his role in the early stages of Greitens’ decision to run for governor, during which time the governor is alleged to have violated state ethics laws by spending money on his campaign without forming a campaign committee.
In particiular, Hafner said he was paid by one of Greitens’ businesses throughout the month of January before the campaign committee was formed.
Hafner said he had advised Greitens to form a committee to avoid breaking the law.
“Obviously he disregarded it,” Hafner said.
Hafner said Greitens wanted to use a March 2015 tour to promote his book “Resilience” to give him a launching pad for his political aspirations.
“He didn’t want to announce until after the book tour,” Hafner said. “I think he was using that as a promotional tool.”
Hafner also said he observed the governor undergo training sessions on Republican policies to better hone his conservative message.
“Are you saying the governor is a secret Democrat?” asked state Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield.
“I wouldn’t say he was a secret Democrat. At the time I believe the conversion was sincere,” Hafner said. “They were very sensitive to the fact that he had a previous history as a Democrat.”
“I sat through the messaging sessions. It wasn’t until that point that I believed and still do that he modified a number of his beliefs in order to match a certain part of the electorate,” Hafner said.
Hafner, who later went to work for businessman John Brunner’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination for governor, has been called a “disgruntled” ex-staffer by Greitens’ attorneys.
On Tuesday, however, he denied it.
“I didn’t seek this out. I am here in pursuit of the truth,” Hafner said. “I was perfectly content with leaving all of this in the past.”
Greitens, a former Navy Seal, founded The Mission Continues in 2007. His alleged use of a fundraising list from the charity is under investigation.
From the outset of his campaign for governor, despite being a Rhodes scholar and an author, Greitens played up his physicality. An early campaign video showed him in a tight black shirt firing rounds. Later, he’d invite reporters to watch him rappel walls.
He branded himself as an “outsider” who’d take on the “corruption” in Jefferson City, which had been controlled by Republicans for more than a decade. During the GOP primary, he took an opponent, John Brunner, to task — calling him a “weasel” — over what Greitens considered negative campaigning. Brunner’s campaign said at the time it recorded the phone call because an earlier call from Greitens seemed “bordering on a threatening nature.”
In early 2016, he said voters could “see every single one of our donors,” but concerns over his campaign financing started almost immediately. Early on, the majority of his funding came from out of state. In late 2016, right before the election, he received the largest political contribution in state history, $1.9 million, but he kept the identity of the donor secret, which would become a common theme.
Installed in office, Greitens showed that his approach to governing was more about browbeating legislators on social media than about making deals or finding consensus.
While senators debated a pay raise, Greitens lashed them on Twitter. When state Sen. Rob Schaaf filibustered legislation Greitens wanted, A New Missouri — a nonprofit that was created to support Greitens and is housed in the same building as Greitens’ campaign — tweeted out Schaaf’s personal cellphone number.
Also, instead of releasing his budget with his State of the State, as his predecessors had done, Greitens waited, stalling the budget-making process. After the legislative session ended, he called lawmakers back twice to debate measures, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. At one point, he called legislators third-graders.
(Sky Chadde, formerly of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.)
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