Release of Greitens report grinds legislative business to a halt as officials react

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A Missouri House committee released an explicit report last week in which legislators from both sides of the aisle found accusations against Gov. Eric Greitens credible, kicking off an intense and hectic week in Jefferson City that nearly brought all official business to a halt.

A House investigative committee released a report April 11 containing witness testimony about Greitens’ encounters with a woman he had an affair with in 2015. The report details the woman’s aggressive encounters with Greitens, in which she describes acts of physical violence and multiple instances in which she said she did not consent to his actions. He has said all of their encounters were consensual.

The governor has admitted the affair but denies any violence or non-consensual actions. In a press conference an hour before the release of the report, he took no questions but said, “Let’s call this what it is: a political witch hunt… I will continue to serve the people of Missouri as their governor and work for you every day. But the people of Missouri see through this, and they know far better than to trust one-sided tabloid trash gossip.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican, responded in his own press conference, “This is not a witch hunt. This committee’s task — and its only task — was to conduct the fairest and the most thorough and timely investigation possible. The governor was asked to give his version of the facts; that is still open.”

The report’s central finding was that the woman that Greitens had an affair with is a credible witness, said Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, in a statement that also referenced Greitens’ legal troubles. He is scheduled to go on trial for felony invasion of privacy on May 14.

“To have a governor serving while under felony indictment is a serious matter,” Unsicker said, adding, “This is a sad day in Missouri.”

Among the highest-profile voices calling for Greitens’ resignation were Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Kirkwood, and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, said Greitens was “unfit to serve.”

Locally in south county, Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, was among the first Republicans to call for the governor’s resignation two months ago.

“When a man cheats on his wife, it’s a family matter,” she said. “When the governor of Missouri cheats, then allegations of victimizing his mistress, blackmail, bribes and his taxpayer-funded employee involves herself in questioning the attorney for the accuser follow, it becomes a state matter.”

Last week, Rep. Doug Beck, D-Affton, added his voice to the growing chorus asking Greitens to “immediately” step down.

When asked about some of the explicit information in the report, Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton, said: “A man doesn’t do that. A man serves his family, serves his country, serves his state, works hard for his family, praises God. This man clearly is nothing about that, but I pity his mom, his dad, his children and his wife because his children someday are going to have to live through this and know what he did.”

At an April 7 town hall at South County Tech that Burns co-hosted with Beck and two other Democratic lawmakers, Burns had declined to take a position on the governor’s current situation, including a potential impeachment and the pending felony case.

“We’re waiting,” Burns said. “The people who are calling for his resignation in the House and Senate would be the first to ask for justice for themselves. So I find it a bit hypocritical that they’re all screaming, ‘Resign, resign.’ Everyone in this country is due due process, and we’re waiting… not forming an opinion, but we’re waiting ’til we get those things in.”

Debate about Greitens’ possible resignation or impeachment consumed the Senate floor April 12.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, called the contents of the report “disturbing and disgusting” and said Greitens has “lost the moral authority and the ability to lead the state going forward.”

Three Republican senators wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to intervene and pressure Greitens to resign, including Greitens’ most vocal opponent, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-Buchanan.

On the Senate floor, Schaaf said, “President Trump, I’m speaking to you. We have an emergency here in Missouri … If you give him the orders, if you tell him to stand down, Mr. President, I believe that he will.”

Some female senators spoke of their frustration that a person they allege is a “sexual predator” holds the top job in Missouri government.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, has spoken out in the past about instances in which she was sexually harassed in the Legislature, and she spoke about it again.

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, told her, “I’ve heard everything you’ve had to say today” and “I appreciate you saying it.”

This article was produced by Call News Editor Gloria Lloyd and Columbia Missourian reporters Annika Merrilees and Kaylin Baylis, Kathryn Hardison, Kaitlin Washburn, Tyler Wornell and Ellen Cagle.