Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, a leading candidate for U.S. Senate, is calling on his state’s GOP governor to “resign immediately.”
While many Missouri Republicans are calling for Greitens to resign, few have gone as far as Hawley and flatly called the details of the report "impeachable."
As the state's attorney general and the Republican Party's leading candidate for the U. S. Senate campaign this fall, Hawley's call for resignation is a devastating blow to Greitens' chance to survive the scandal.
Hawley is the frontrunner to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill in November. She’s considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the U.S. Senate and Hawley was heavily recruited by Republicans to take her on.
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McCaskill’s campaign has sought to tie Hawley to Greitens, accusing him of being too soft on the governor.
She also called on Greitens to resign.
“I have read the official report from the Republican led Missouri House investigation, including the sworn testimony," McCaskill said in a statement. "It is clearly time to put the interests of the people of Missouri first. The Governor should resign.”
The report recounts allegations that Greitens performed non-consensual sex acts on a woman, coerced oral sex from her and struck her at least three times over the course of several months in 2015, before he ran for public office. The governor called the allegations lies in a press conference shortly before the report’s release on Wednesday afternoon.
Hawley issued his statement late Wednesday in reaction to a report issued earlier that day by bipartisan investigative committee in the Missouri House that contained graphic allegations of blackmail and sexual misconduct by Gov. Eric Greitens.
“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.”
Hawley is investigating the governor’s former veterans charity, The Mission Continues. The investigation is ongoing. A previous investigation he conducted into the governor’s use of Confide, an app that automatically deletes messages, found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Asked whether Hawley would now need to recuse himself from the charity investigation, Hawley's spokeswoman said: "No. These are separate matters and the Attorney General's statement tonight is in response to the House Report."
Hartzler and others
The report about Greitens' alleged behavior “surpasses disturbing,” said Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler. “It is disgusting.”
Her strongly worded statement stopped short of calling directly on Greitens to resign, but Hartzler said his alleged behavior is not “befit for a leader in Missouri or anywhere else for that matter.”
“Although he is certainly due his day in court, these reports further call into question his character as an individual, regardless of whether a law has been broken or not,” Hartzler said.
She praised the “deliberate steps” taken by the Missouri General Assembly to respond to the allegations and said she was praying for the governor’s wife, Sheena Greitens, their children and others who have been affected by the scandal.
“More now than ever before we are in desperate need of honorable people with integrity willing to dedicate themselves to public service,” Hartzler said. “Our government needs it and the people of Missouri and our nation deserve it.”
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, said Greitens "needs to summon the integrity to resign."
She said Greitens' "indefensible actions and the embarrassment he continues to bring to Missouri are causing deep harm to our state.”
John Hancock, a Republican operative and former Missouri GOP chairman, said it's impossible not to be disgusted by the allegations in the report.
"I can't begin to imagine the humiliation that the governor must be feeling," Hancock said.
"We may never know exactly what transpired, but putting yourself in a position to have these sorts of charges come forth shows a profound lack of judgment, and whatever may or may not be true, that profound lack of judgment is inarguable," he said.
It will be hard for the state legislature to stay focused on the work of governing with these allegations hanging over the head of the governor, Hancock added.
"I mean this is such a bizarre and sad ordeal," he said. "It's hard to even think about government given a fact set like this."