Resignation Calls Increase for Missouri Governor After House Proclaims His Accuser's Abuse Claims to Be Credible
By Allison Kite And Tessa Weinberg
A growing number of Missouri lawmakers are calling on Gov. Eric Greitens to step down over "horrendous" and "disgraceful" allegations of abuse detailed in an investigative report released Wednesday.
After more than a month of investigation, the special House committee deemed "credible" the testimony of the woman with whom Greitens had an affair in 2015.
The report detailed her claims that Greitens on multiple occasions hit her. She said he bound her to exercise equipment, put a blindfold on her, undressed her and took a photo of her without consent in order to keep her silent. She felt coerced to give him oral sex on his basement floor while she cried.
Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied other allegations contained in the report.
In the moments before and after the report was released, both Republican and Democratic members of the Missouri General Assembly said they thought Greitens should resign.
"I said earlier, I think for the best for him, his family and the state he should, but that's his decision," said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said she felt sorry for Greitens' wife, Sheena Greitens, and their children.
"It just saddened me -- I mean, just made me angry to think that this is the man who prides himself on being a family man and having these family values," Nasheed said. "And then to have to put his family through this. I just think the best thing for him to do is to resign."
Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester, said she believed the woman's claims and called for Greitens to step down, but she said it was too early to make any judgments about impeaching the governor if he doesn't step down.
"Violence against women is never acceptable," Evans said. "I'm overwhelmed with sadness for the state."
Some members of the General Assembly doubted Greitens' ability to lead under the circumstances.
"This report confirms that legislative business is not going to return to normal until the governor resigns or is removed," said Rep. Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty. "I have no confidence in our governor's ability to lead our state right now and the information that has come to light is beyond distracting, it's completely disgusting. My constituents certainly don't deserve this."
Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis County, called the allegations "extremely distrubing" and said Greitens has "been been distracted and has not been an effective governor" as he fights off the investigation and his criminal indictment for invasion of privacy.
"And now he's out attacking the integrity of the committee, which on a bipartisan basis found the allegations to be credible and the witness to be credible," Dogan said. "So my heart breaks for his family and the woman's family and everybody involved, but I think he needs to resign."
Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said there would be "no question" Greitens needs to resign when Missourians see the contents of the report. He said he felt for the woman with whom Greitens had the affair, calling her a victim.
"Feelings are with her, for anyone who has been a victim of a situation like this, and also with the first lady and the children," Razer said. "So this affects a lot of people. The governor should absolutely resign today."
In a press conference an hour before the report's release, Greitens was defiant against calls for his resignation and said the report signed by five Republicans and two Democrats would include "lies and falsehoods." He repeatedly called it a "political witch hunt," mimicking President Donald Trump's complaints about the ongoing investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 campaign.
Greitens wanted lawmakers to wait for the conclusion of his May trial for felony invasion of privacy to conduct their investigation.
If Greitens refuses to step down, Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said the Missouri House should move forward with impeachment.
"Based on the shocking and unsettling events detailed in this report, we have no faith in Eric Greitens' ability to effectively govern," Walsh said. "He must resign immediately. If he refuses to do the right thing, the Missouri House of Representatives should move forward with the impeachment process."
House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, called on Greitens to "immediately resign." If he doesn't, she said it will be up to the House to "restore integrity to the executive branch."
"This duty must be conducted with careful deliberation following a thorough review of the evidence gathered to date," McCann Beatty said. "Once House members have had the opportunity to digest the special committee's report and accompanying documentation, it is our hope that leadership in both parties can agree on the appropriate next step."
The Capitol was quiet In the hours before the special House committee released the findings of its investigation. The House had adjourned early for the weekend.
Republicans in both chambers discussed the report at caucus meetings across town at the headquarters of the Missouri Farm Bureau. Many didn't return to the Statehouse or respond to requests for comment. Democrats gathered in the basement of the capitol building.
Nearly a dozen Democrats and four Republicans called for Greitens' resignation immediately after the report was released. Republican leaders were expected to hold a press conference Wednesday evening.
Rep. Dan Stacy, R-Blue Springs, declined to comment on the contents of the report.
"There is a process, and I trust it," Stacy said.
Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville, said Greitens should resign.
Nasheed said with the affair dominating conversations in Jefferson City, there's little focus on policy.
"Those are not even the conversations that people are having right in this building. Or the fact that our infrastructure is crumbling and the roads and bridges need to be repaired," Nasheed said. "They're not talking about the high unemployment rate of poor people -- black and white -- throughout the state. The only thing that's being talked about right now is a scandal."
Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, the House minority whip, called the details of the affair "pretty horrendous."
"We reviewed a little bit, but it was hard to read, so I think at this point we need to all go back and review the report," Kendrick said. "Read it thoroughly and determine at that point how we should proceed, but he definitely needs to resign from office immediately."
On Twitter, Kendrick called Greitens "scum."
Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, assistant House minority leader, said it would be "inappropriate" for her to comment on the report because she was one of the members of the investigative committee. In a statement with Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr., D-St. Louis, the other Democratic member of the committee, she said the committee needed to extend its investigation to finish examining issues beyond those contained in the report.
"Our committee remains dedicated to its task and will not be deterred by Eric Greitens' baseless attacks on our witnesses, our integrity or our common sense," Mitten said. "And as we move forward, we remain sympathetic to the victim and the governor's family for what they are being forced to endure as a result of the governor's actions and choices."
(c)2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)