Despite blustery attacks (complete with allegations of “fake news” and “witch hunts”) on his many tormenters, which are highly reminiscent of the tactics of the current president of the United States, Missouri governor Eric Greitens’s political troubles seem to be deepening. Already under indictment for a felony violation of the privacy rights of a woman with whom he was having an affair, by taking lewd photos of her and threatening to use them if she exposed their relationship, the woman’s full account of their interactions has now gone public in a report from a special legislative investigatory committee. And the picture it paints of Greitens is ugly indeed. Here’s how the New York Times summarized the new evidence in a brief sanitized description:
The damning report details several instances in which the woman, who was Mr. Greitens’s hairdresser, said he spanked, slapped or grabbed her, and called her names during sexual encounters.
Legally, the report suggests that Greitens might have committed not just an invasion of privacy but sexual assault. And all the surrounding circumstances are damning: his contemptuous treatment of a woman who obviously wasn’t his economic or social equal; his strangely possessive demand that she stop having sex with her own husband; and his recognition that he was engaging in politically ruinous behavior. Greitens has admitted the affair itself, but has angrily denied everything else without addressing the details. The new report will probably make that strategy even less effective.
Now he faces two immediate perils: The formal trial for felony privacy invasion is scheduled to begin on May 14 (his camp is claiming pre-trial publicity has fatally tainted the juror pool, and is asking for a bench trial, to which he has no automatic right under Missouri law). But he also faces the possibility of impeachment proceedings emanating from the same committee that released the toxic report on his actions. With the regular legislative session coming to a close, there’s now talk of bringing legislators back for a special session to deal with Greitens.
But it’s clear a lot of the governor’s fellow-Republicans would prefer that he just go away. State Senate majority leader Mike Kehoe, saying he found the new revelations “disturbing and disgusting,” has joined the growing chorus of calls for his resignation. Even more significantly, so too has Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is the likely GOP nominee in this fall’s critical U.S. Senate race, taking on Claire McCaskill:
“The House Investigative Committee’s Report contains shocking, substantial, and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by Governor Greitens,” Hawley said in the statement.
He said the conduct the report alleges “is certainly impeachable, in my judgment.” The Missouri House is well within its rights to proceed on that front,” he said.
“But the people of Missouri should not be put through that ordeal,” Hawley said. “Governor Greitens should resign immediately.”
As David Graham observes, Greitens’s troubles have evoked the soft clucking sounds of chickens coming home to roost for the often-sanctimonious self-described “outsider”:
The [legislative] report is sickening to read, adding violence and coerced sex to the list of accusations against Greitens. These are particularly damaging because the events it portrays allegedly occurred even as he was getting ready to run for office with a campaign in which he blasted the state’s existing politicians as corrupt and unscrupulous, and trumpeted his own supposed family values. That campaign resonated with voters, but it had the side effect of upsetting many Missouri politicians, including those in his own party, who have been slow to defend him and even eager to blast him.
So, unlike Donald Trump, Eric Greitens has not consolidated personal control over his party after a hostile takeover of the governorship. His plight shows there are limits to partisan loyalty even in this day and age. Perhaps the bar was low for a GOP revolt against this particular sexual predator. But it’s always a possibility anywhere.