Attorney General Josh Hawley’s announcement of a potential felony crime by Governor Eric Greitens has further entangled legal matters within politics in Missouri.
Hawley slammed together a Tuesday news conference roughly thirty minutes after notifying the press of the event. There, he let on that fellow Republican Greitens might have committed a felony by taking and using a charity donor list for campaign fundraising.
Hawley’s announcement came roughly 24 hours after Greitens’ attorney called on Hawley to recuse himself from the very investigation that led to his press conference.
Attorney Edward Dowd Jr. contended Hawley’s act of requesting that Greitens resign had clearly compromised Hawley’s investigation. Hawley had joined a growing list of elected officeholders calling for Greitens to step down after a House panel released a report in which a woman claimed Greitens had physically abused and sexually coerced her.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, is prosecuting Greitens on felony charges related to his alleged misconduct. Gardner would also have jurisdiction to bring additional felony charges against Greitens based on the evidence announced by Hawley Thursday.
But another one of Greitens lawyers, James Martin, has accused Gardner of misconduct and “gross incompetence”.
All of the activity just described took place during the last week. (A couple of more up to the minute announcements are included below.)
Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem as though the political and legal wrangling will subside anytime soon. Greitens trial is set to start May 14th, although the proceedings of almost daily pre-trial hearings have dominated recent news cycles.
The judge in his criminal case, will issue a decision Thursday on whether to dismiss the case after the defense claimed the prosecution improperly withheld evidence, namely the video recording in question along with accompanying notes, for months.
Judge Rex Burlison was said to be angry at Circuit Attorney Gardner for her level of performance in the existing case against Greitens.
Her office has failed to produce a photo which is key to the felony charges. She’s also accused of persuading a person to commit perjury by the defense for knowingly allowing her prosecution’s hired private investigator, William Don Tisaby, to lie under oath about not taking notes that were later turned over to the defense.
If Gardner’s not feeling stressed over the current case against Greitens, she’s about to feel the pressure to beat the clock in filing new charges against the governor.
Hawley said Tuesday that Gardner must decide soon whether to pursue charges because of a law limiting how long legal action can be taken after a potential crime is committed. Hawley would not elaborate on the deadline for the statute of limitations but says it’s quickly approaching.
Greitens’ legal team didn’t waste time responding to Hawley’s accusation against the governor. Attorney Martin issued a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which reads: “We’ve done a thorough review of this matter, and we know that there’s no wrongdoing here. The Attorney General held a completely frivolous and inappropriate press conference on a non-issue.”
Still, Greitens faces the possibility of two cases with felony charges against him. The Republican majority leadership in the legislature is organizing for the possibility of calling a special session to consider impeaching Greitens, while Democratic minority leaders are pushing for immediate impeachment proceedings.
According to Missourinet’s former news director and resident historian Bob Priddy, the only governor removed from office in Missouri was Claiborne Fox Jackson in 1861.
“Jackson lied during his campaign by pretending to be against secession when actually he was plotting to take Missouri South,” said Priddy. “When he was sworn in, he immediately asserted that Missouri’s lot was tied to the fate of the seceding states.”
Both Greitens and Attorney General Hawley were elected to statewide seats in 2016 as first time elected officials.
Hawley is now the front-runner to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill this November. How the present course of events will play out for him remains to be seen.
Hawley has increasingly distanced himself from Greitens since the fellow GOP member was first accused of sexual misconduct and coercion with the woman. However, recent polling shows Greitens has continuing support among core voters.
A survey released last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research showed that a plurality of voters in the heavily Republican-leaning regions outside Kansas City and St. Louis still approve of Greiten’s job performance and don’t think he should resign.
Then again, political fallout continues at a furious pace in Missouri.
Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo issued a statement Tuesday night calling for Governor Greitens to resign. Going a step further, GOP Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said in a statement that it’s his wish to “immediately start impeachment proceedings”. The potential process must begin in the House.
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