Lawmakers in Jefferson City could be coming to a consensus over the desired fate of Governor Eric Greitens.
Statements by Republican House and Senate leaders following the attorney general’s announcement this week that the governor may have committed a felony suggest growing unity among the GOP majority.
The top three House leaders have called on Greitens to resign while the top Senator wishes for immediate impeachment proceedings.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin refers to the predicament surrounding the governor as a “situation of the ages”.
“As a student of history and a former teacher of history, I recognize the severity of this,” says Richard. “And I recognize that what we do here is going to set a precedent for years and generations to come.”
Governor Greitens, a Republican, faces charges and accusations on numerous fronts.
A Special House committee released a report last week documenting testimony from his ex-mistress alleging that he physically assaulted and sexually coerced her.
He’s been slapped with felony charges in a St. Louis court for allegedly snapping a compromising photo of the same woman without her consent and then threatening to distribute it she if mentioned his name. Thursday, a judge denied a request by Greitens’ attorney to dismiss the charge.
Attorney General Josh Hawley’s assertion that the governor may have committed a felony is tied to his investigation into Greitens’ use of a donor list from his former charity for campaign purposes.
In addition, the state Ethics Commission is investigating Greitens after former state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple filed a complaint alleging Greitens falsely reported the way his campaign obtained the donor list and failed to disclose that it also got the charity’s email list.
Greitens paid a $100 penalty to the Ethics Commission last year after admitting he received the donor list. For his part, the governor has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
But lawmakers seem to be increasingly in agreement that Greitens will have to leave office. Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City says the party’s rank-and-file members are falling into line.
“There’s always people that don’t agree with various things that leadership does, but as far as the Republican Party in the House and the Senate, it seems to me that the majority of the people are in the same direction on this,” says Kehoe.
Democrats are unified around one approach to deal with Greitens – to start impeachment proceedings immediately. Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh echoed fellow party members Thursday when she said it’s concerning that Greitens would have the right to sign or veto any legislation.
“We know that Eric Greitens likes to threaten people, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he would leverage his signature or veto over lawmakers’ considering his impeachment,” said Walsh.
The two-term Senate Democrat doesn’t want any legislation sent to the governor’s desk until the end of the current session. The official end of the session is May 18th, but party leaders on both sides of the aisle have indicated they’re not required to send legislation to the governor until May 30th.
Walsh says she’s hopeful the trouble surrounding Greitens will have played out by then. Republican leader Richard says he’s in discussions with GOP House Speaker Todd Richardson about the possibility of holding onto finalized legislation until after the session.
In the meantime, some Senate Democrats are expressing anxiety that he’s still in office. At least two party members, Walsh and Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis have displayed resistance to referring to Greitens as the governor in public.
Nasheed has sent a letter to Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden asking for extra security at the Capitol and requesting prior notification if Greitens is in the Capitol anywhere outside his second-floor suite.
In her letter, Nasheed cites allegations of domestic violence and continued rumors of erratic and dangerous behavior as reasons she feels in danger.
In 1994, former Democratic Secretary of State Judith Moriarty was impeached and removed from office after being accused of tampering with documents that allowed her son to run for office.
Senate GOP Leader Richard says he’s going to seek guidance from lawmakers who were in office at the time and handled Moriarty’s impeachment.
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