Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’s political and legal problems are getting worse.
A week after a report from state lawmakers alleging that Greitens, a Republican, had coerced his hairdresser into nonconsensual sexual acts, took photos of her without her consent, and attempted to blackmail her, Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley has announced the findings of a separate investigation into the governor’s veterans charity.
Hawley said his office has discovered evidence that Greitens may have committed a felony offense by using a donor list of his veterans charity, the Mission Continues, to ask for donations leading up to his 2016 campaign for governor. Hawley’s office has not yet filed formal charges.
Now, Greitens has fired back. On Wednesday, the governor filed a temporary restraining order against Hawley, an attempt to stop the AG from investigating him, according to local television station KRCG reporter Ashley Zavala. The argument from Greitens and his lawyers is that because Hawley has already called for the governor’s resignation, he can’t investigate him impartially, and therefore must step down from the case.
Using a charity list for political fundraising is a felony under Missouri law. The statute of limitations is approaching, so Hawley decided to disclose the information to both the St. Louis circuit attorney and the Missouri House committee investigating Greitens, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Christopher Ave.
BREAKING: Hawley: "We have uncovered evidence of wrongdoing... potential criminal violations" by Greitens.— Christopher Ave (@ChristopherAve) April 17, 2018
Though charges have yet to be filed, Hawley was unusually blunt, calling Greitens’s conduct in the matter “serious misconduct” and adding he thinks it constitutes an “impeachable offense.”
“In the course of this investigation, we have uncovered evidence of wrongdoing that goes beyond Missouri’s charity laws,” Hawley told reporters on Tuesday. “To be specific, within the past several days, we have obtained evidence of potential criminal violations.”
The St. Louis circuit attorney’s office has been considerably more tight-lipped about the investigation, saying in a tweet that it has met with the attorney general’s office and is reviewing the evidence.
“We can’t discuss any specifics at this time, as the investigation is ongoing,” the statement added.
The attorney general’s announcement may not be enough to compel Greitens to resign; the governor sounded defiant after Hawley’s press conference. In a statement released Tuesday, the governor shot back, addressing Hawley by his first name only.
“Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law,” Greitens said. “Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous.”
Hawley has been investigating Greitens over the past several weeks. He told reporters he had subpoenaed 15 current or former staffers of the Mission Continues on March 23. Greitens founded the charity in 2007 but departed in 2014. Hawley also recently announced that his office subpoenaed the governor through another company called the Greitens Group that Greitens runs for his book sales (he’s published books on his time as a Navy SEAL).
It’s the latest in a stream of bad news for Greitens, which started in February when he was indicted on a felony charge of invasion of privacy and led away by the St. Louis sheriff’s office. This charge was in relation to his extramarital relationship with the woman who says Greitens coerced her into sexual acts (Greitens has maintained the relationship was consensual). That indictment could carry up to four years of prison time, and Greitens’s trial is supposed to start early next month.
Throughout all of this, Greitens has refused to step down, calling the special investigation by state lawmakers into his conduct a “political witch hunt.” (It’s worth noting the committee investigating Greitens has a Republican majority.) Missouri lawmakers now have to decide whether to start impeachment proceedings against the governor.
Meanwhile, Hawley has been conducting his separate investigation into the governor’s charity. Hawley, who is running in the Republican primary for US Senate and will likely face incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in November, has called for Greitens to resign or be impeached.
He has every reason to want Greitens gone; the Republican governor refusing to budge could be a huge drag on Hawley’s campaign and a distraction as he tries to mount a competitive challenge to McCaskill this fall. Greitens’s lawyers have seized on this, calling on Hawley to recuse himself and saying that his statements compromise his investigation.
Greitens has thus far shown no signs of budging. What remains to be seen is how far Hawley tries to push him.
Correction: This article originally said Greitens was facing up to seven years in prison. Thanks to when the alleged crime took place, in 2015, he is only facing four years.