By Daphne Psaledakis, Riley Newton and Kaitlin Washburn
JEFFERSON CITY — Republican lawmakers are gathering signatures to consider impeachment of the governor during a special session, theoretically clearing the way to conduct business as usual in the regular session’s final weeks.
But it’s hardly business as usual in the Capitol.
Gov. Eric Greitens has filed a restraining order against Attorney General Josh Hawley.
House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty filed a resolution to clear the way for the impeachment process to begin.
And rumors and emails swirled around a tie between the Republican governor and major Democratic donor George Soros and Greitens’ lawyer’s support of Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
“This is nuts,” state Rep. Nick Schroer said.
Republican lawmakers began signing papers this week that would allow the House to consider the impeachment of the governor in a special session.
Among those signing the papers were Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville; Schroer, R-O’Fallon; Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport; and Rep. Jeffrey Messenger, R-Republic.
“There’s still some important legislation that still needs to get fully vetted. I’ll say it over and over again — there’s no one person, including myself, that is more important than the people of Missouri,” said Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, who co-sponsored Beatty’s resolution and also signed the paperwork for the special session.
The date that the special session would start is unclear, though Haefner said she believed the papers said May 18, the day the regular session ends. Messenger, on the other hand, said he didn’t think the date was specified but rather left open. Schroer said that he believed the date would be set for the special session to begin after the governor’s trial set for May 14.
Some Democrats, however, had yet to even see the paperwork, including Beatty.
Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, said she thinks the Republicans are trying to get as many signatures from within their own party first so they can see how many Democrats will need to sign for the motion to pass. Two-thirds of each chamber will need to sign petitions for the Legislature to be able to go into special session.
Democrats are generally in favor of tackling the impeachment issue immediately and not waiting for a special session.
“There is too much evidence at this point to not move forward with impeachment proceedings now,” said Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia. “There are a number of bills that will be on (Greitens’) desk soon. I don’t think we should give him the power or the leverage in this process anymore.”
Restraining order against Hawley
Greitens has filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the state’s attorney general in an attempt to keep him away from the office’s investigation into the governor.
The filing in Cole County Circuit Court says Hawley should be barred from probes related to Greitens because he called on Greitens to resign. Hawley’s statement came after the release of a legislative report containing allegations that Greitens had been physically aggressive toward a woman during sexual encounters in 2015, according to The Associated Press.
Greitens’ attorneys said the court should appoint a special prosecutor to handle any investigation or prosecution of Greitens.
Hawley said it’s a “frivolous motion.”
The request was filed April 16, the day before Hawley held a press conference announcing he had evidence the governor had misused his charities donor list. On April 18, Hawley received a summons to appear in front of a judge.
Court records show the restraining order was filed by Michelle Nasser, an attorney for Greitens. Calls to Nasser were not returned.
Talk of ties to Soros
In a statement issued April 17, Greitens was critical of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who is pursuing the felony charge against him, for receiving campaign contributions from George Soros.
“Josh has turned the ‘evidence’ he claims to have over to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner — a liberal prosecutor funded by George Soros who allegedly suborned perjury, falsified documents and withheld evidence,” Greitens wrote. “We will dispense with these false allegations.”
But whispers among some lawmakers in the Capitol last week pointed to ties Greitens himself has to Soros.
Until 2017, Greitens was listed as a veterans advisory board member of the Robin Hood Foundation. The foundation, which fights poverty in New York City, received a $50 million grant from the Open Society Institute — which Soros chairs.
The board of the Robin Hood Foundation during the time Greitens was associated with it included several well-known names, including Katie Couric, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steven Cohen and Harvey Weinstein.
The Missourian searched archives of the previous versions of the Robin Hood Foundation’s site and found that Greitens was listed as an advisory board member as early as 2012. He may have joined the foundation earlier, but archives of board members were unavailable before that date.
Greitens’ attorney tied to McCaskill campaign
On April 17, Schroer sent an email to Republican representatives stating his opinion that Greitens is receiving biased legal advice from his attorney Ed Dowd. The email was sent after Dowd issued a statement urging Hawley to recuse himself from investigating the governor because Hawley had called for Greitens’ resignation.
“I know that Attorney General Hawley is committed to the law and will handle his investigation into the governor’s nonprofit properly, and I think that the letter Ed Dowd released to the press is crossing the line,” said Schroer, who is also an attorney. “It is unacceptable for the governor to attack the attorney general or question his ability to do his job impartially.”
Schroer said Greitens’ attorney went after the attorney general because of Hawley’s U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent McCaskill, a Democrat.
Dowd has contributed thousands of dollars to McCaskill over the years, according to the Federal Ethics Commission website.