Facing multiple criminal investigations and likely impeachment by the state legislature, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced his resignation Tuesday afternoon, ending his brief and tumultuous tenure as the Show-Me State’s chief executive.
Greitens, a Republican, says he will officially step down at 5 p.m. Friday, handing the reins to his lieutenant governor, Mike Parson, a fellow conservative and former state senator.
Greitens had been charged with two felonies in a St. Louis court: invasion of privacy and computer tampering. A concurrent investigation led by a special House of Representatives committee examined the governor’s alleged use of sexual blackmail against his former hairdresser, with whom Greitens has admitted to having an extramarital affair in 2015, before he announced his gubernatorial campaign. The House committee had also taken interest in Greitens’ possible violation of campaign finance law in using a list of donors to The Mission Continues, a tax-exempt charity the governor founded to aid wounded veterans, to solicit support for his run for governor.
Four weeks ago, the Missouri General Assembly, whose regular legislative session ended May 18, called itself into a special session for the sole purpose of considering possible impeachment of the governor — a historic first for the state. Such a petition needed the signatures of three-quarters of the members of the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives. The legislature easily cleared that bar, gathering the required number of signatures and many more.
Earlier Tuesday, a subpoena issued by the House committee against A New Missouri Inc., a so-called “dark money” organization with ties to Greitens and several of his closest advisers, was upheld by a Cole County circuit court judge. The governor announced his resignation less than 8 hours later. A New Missouri has come under fire from politicians and transparency advocates for its extensive efforts to hide the source of its massive income, which was being used, quite insidiously, to influence political and legislative outcomes in the state.
Missouri lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed support for the governor’s decision to abdicate his power.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican:
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, another Republican, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat and has butted-heads with Greitens in recent months:
And Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat:
I, for one, am glad to see Greitens go.
Since a St. Louis television station first reported, in January, his alleged use of sexual blackmail, the governor has selfishly clung to power. His seemingly corrupt dealings with the ever-secretive A New Missouri were the very antithesis of his campaign promises for increased government transparency, as were his office’s use of a self-destructing messaging app to avoid journalists’ open-record requests. Greitens’ use of political appointments to skirt constitutional checks on abuse of gubernatorial power were abundant, as was on clear display in his orchestrated firing of the state education commissioner in December. And his recurring threats against legislators who defied him, whether they were of his own party or not, was both frightening and unseemly.
Few will miss Greitens, the former Democrat turned diehard conservative. Where political observers once saw a bright future — and a possible White House bid — they now see disgrace.
Missouri is better than Eric Greitens. In the coming months, the state has been given the chance to prove it. ■