Republican senator asks Trump to order Greitens to resign
A day after a bombshell report detailed allegations of sexual coercion and blackmail against Gov. Eric Greitens, one of his biggest donors pulled away, while Democrats pushed for impeachment proceedings to begin immediately.
The latest call for resignation came from mega donor David Humphreys, a Joplin businessman who gave Greitens more than $2 million in 2016. Humphreys and his family have donated tens of millions more to various Republican candidates and campaigns in recent years.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers threatened to derail the remaining weeks of the 2018 legislative session if Republican leaders don't immediately begin the process of impeaching Greitens.
The latest twists in the scandal that has upended Missouri politics come after a House committee that's been investigating the governor for more than a month released its findings.
The graphic 25-page report detailed allegations of sexual coercion and blackmail against Greitens, including accusations that he taped a woman's hands to pull-up rings, blindfolded her, spit water into her mouth, ripped open her shirt, pulled down her pants and took a photo without her consent.
Greitens has remained defiant, refusing to resign and proclaiming his innocence of any wrongdoing. He said in a statement Thursday that the House report "contained explosive, hurtful allegations of coercion, violence, and assault. They are false. Those allegations can be refuted with facts."
Among those who believe the report's findings is Humphreys, who serves as president and CEO of Joplin-based manufacturer Tamko Building Products Inc. He said Thursday that he was "deeply disappointed by the actions described in the testimony released by the House committee."
"While these actions took place before his election and are otherwise arguably a private matter, the testimony reveals behavior that should not be tolerated anywhere, but especially not by those holding public office. Gov. Greitens should resign as these new revelations describe behavior that makes it impossible to retain confidence in his ability to govern wisely and well."
Greitens has faced a chorus of calls for his resignation by many of Missouri's Republican leaders, including Attorney General Josh Hawley and U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner and Vicky Hartzler.
Hawley called the allegations in the House report “impeachable,” and Wagner said Greitens “is unfit to lead our state.”
Wagner said the testimony paints "the picture of a vulnerable woman and a man who preyed on that vulnerability.”
U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, whose district includes the Northland, did not join the chorus of Republicans calling for Greitens’ exit from office.
“No, I think he should have his day in court,” said Graves, whose brother Todd Graves chairs the Missouri Republican Party.
The Missouri GOP has not responded to a request for comment on the report. Neither have two other statewide Republican leaders, Treasurer Eric Schmitt and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, released a statement Thursday saying Greitens “has lost the moral authority and the ability to lead the state going forward.”
But calls for resignation were not enough for Democrats, who say allowing Greitens to continue serving as governor is unacceptable given the contents in the House report.
"What are we showing the world today?" asked Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. "We’re showing the world you can be a governor and you can slap a woman around. You can be a governor and have little or no integrity. You can be governor and have no morals. We are showing the world that you can victimize a lady, a woman, and still serve in the top position here in the state of Missouri."
She continued: "There’s no way we should be sending a bill to a governor who is not fit to serve, let alone sign a bill."
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, announced Wednesday that he and other GOP legislative leaders would push for a special session to be convened after the adjournment of the 2018 session on May 18 to consider possible disciplinary action against the governor — including impeachment.
The delay, Richardson said, will give the House investigative committee time to continue its work and allow "the General Assembly to remain focused on the task Missourians count on us to complete."
When asked during Senate debate Thursday whether the allegations in the report are enough to warrant impeachment, Kehoe said: "I still think you have to have two sides of the story before you say yes to that. Maybe you still say yes after you have that second side."
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, says he supports the House speaker's decision to wait on the investigative committee to finish its work before contemplating impeachment.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to move forward with impeachment must be decided by the House. And Richard trusts Richardson will make the right call.
"Have you guys seen the speaker? I mean, this guy has lost 20 pounds, he's probably smoked 20 packs of cigarettes," Richard said. "He's taking this job very serious."
Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, threatened to filibuster every House bill besides the state's budget until impeachment proceedings begin.
"Why should we move any House priorities if they aren’t moving forward with impeachment of this governor?" Sifton asked.
Nasheed echoed that sentiment, saying that if House members want to get their bills approved, "they need to start the impeachment process immediately. I don’t think we should allow one bill to get to [the governor's] desk. ... Do the right thing, or we’re just going to be here talking."
Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, said she had made a point of reserving public comment about the allegations against the governor until the House committee released its report. Now she is calling for impeachment.
"At this point, the distraction this has caused to our Capitol and our state in general, there’s no way we can continue to do the business of our state under this cloud," she said.
Sen. Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said Senate Democrats will meet Tuesday to discuss whether to use the filibuster to block all legislation until impeachment proceedings begin.
"I have no faith that any legislation signed by Eric Greitens should be law, so my caucus will meet on Tuesday when we return, and we will decide what we will do," she said, later adding: "I mean, for crying out loud — he coerced the young woman. He slapped her. Do you want him leading your state? I don't want him leading my state."
One Republican senator made it clear Thursday evening that he agrees with Democrats that impeachment is warranted.
Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, released a statement saying he wants to be able to "look my 11-year-old daughter in the eyes when she asks about the governor, tell her I love her and tell her this type of behavior is not okay for someone to do to her or anyone else."
He said there is more than enough in the House report to warrant impeachment proceedings.
"I’m asking the House to evaluate all of the information they have received and pursue Articles of Impeachment," he said.
Impeachment begins in the House. The committee that investigated the governor can draft articles of impeachment, and they would proceed through the House in the same manner as any other bill.
A public hearing would be held, and eventually it would be debated and voted on by the full House. A constitutional majority of 82 out of 163 House members is all that is needed to impeach.
The House has 114 Republicans and 47 Democrats.
If the House votes to impeach, the matter would move to the Senate, which would select a special commission of seven judges to try the case.
At the completion of the trial, if five of those judges concur that the governor is guilty, he would be removed from office. The lieutenant governor, Republican Mike Parson, would become governor for the remainer of the term, which runs until January 2021.
To call a special session, at least three-fourths of House members — 123 of 163 — and senators — 26 of 34 — would have to vote in favor.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he didn't expect Greitens to resign. He said the governor, a former Navy SEAL, "has it wired into his psyche ... never to surrender."
"I believe that there is one person who could get this soldier to stand down. ... He's trained to listen to his commander in chief," Schaaf said. For that reason, he said, he would be sending a letter asking President Donald Trump to order Greitens to resign.
"Worth a shot," Schaaf said.