U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was reluctant Wednesday to speak about Gov. Eric Greitens’ decision to step down as Missouri’s governor, but she had high praise for the woman who will continue investigating the allegations against him.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, a Democrat, will continue evaluating evidence that the outgoing governor photographed a woman without her consent in 2015, regardless of Greitens’ decision to resign effective Friday and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s decision to drop an unrelated case against the governor.
Baker began her career working as an assistant prosecutor under McCaskill, D-Mo., in the late 1990s.
“She’s a real prosecutor. She’s not a politician. She’s someone who has faced many juries in her career. She understands that there’s two important things — and only two important things — the facts and how the law applies to those facts, and I have confidence that’s what she’ll do in this instance.”
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McCaskill downplayed the significance of Greitens’ resignation to her U.S. Senate campaign after a campaign event at the Union Hill Veterans Hall, 3027 Walnut St.
“I’m busy trying to make sure we’ve got civilized behavior in Washington these days … and I’ll leave Jeff City stuff to the folks who are representing Missourians in Jeff City,” she said when asked about whether Greitens’ departure from office would bring a more civilized tone to the Statehouse.
McCaskill said she looked forward to working with incoming Gov. Mike Parson, a former sheriff and state lawmaker who will officially be sworn in Friday.
“I know he’s somebody who’s had a long history of public service. I think maybe this instance might remind voters that sometimes the way to vet a candidate is through public service. He has served in both the House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate. Some people might even call him a ‘swamp-dweller,’ ” McCaskill said in reference to rhetoric that has been used by Greitens and President Donald Trump.
“I think that he knows the issues and I think that he will have a different attitude about working with people and I think that’s a positive thing.”
During the event, McCaskill touted her bipartisan work to pass legislation to help World War II veterans who were the subject of mustard gas experiments obtain their health benefits. She fielded questions from veterans in the crowd on issues including trade, health care and foreign policy.
She also expressed concerns about Trump’s recent attacks on the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“We do not ask people in law enforcement to take an oath to protect the president. We ask them to take an oath to protect the Constitution, not the president. And he’s got that confused. He thinks they work for him,” she said.
Attorney General Josh Hawley, the top GOP recruit to face McCaskill, said that he thinks Mueller should "wind down" his investigation, which has lasted roughly a year.
"That’s the problem with these roving special prosecutors, they tend to go on and on... He should come forward with the evidence," he said.
McCaskill, a former Jackson County prosecutor, tore into Hawley for recently saying that he would stack his prosecutorial record up against hers.
“I’m fairly certain he’s never prosecuted anything,” McCaskill said. “I’m not sure he’s ever looked a jury in the eye and asked them to take away someone’s liberty. I’m not sure he’s ever held the hand of a victim, who then has to take the stand and go into some of the most difficult and painful recounting of facts that have happened in their lives.
"… He may have gotten elected to a political office where they handle appeals of prosecutors across the state, but to my knowledge Josh Hawley has never seen a jury up close and personal.”
Hawley said in a phone call that his office secured 70 convictions last year at the trial court level and that when appeal cases are included the number rises to nearly 400.
“She’s not a prosecutor. She’s just a hack politician… I think her criticisms are ridiculous and it’s what hack politicians do," Hawley said.
"I’ve sat with the victims of human trafficking who have been brought to this country against their will," he said, taking particular exception to McCaskill saying he hadn't held the hands of victims.
McCaskill said Hawley had mishandled investigations involving Greitens.
Hawley’s investigation into the governor’s use of a charity donor list contributed to the House investigation and a now-dropped criminal case in St. Louis, but McCaskill argued that Hawley should have launched a probe last year when the state’s Ethics Commission first penalized Greitens.
Hawley said he vigorously pursued the investigations against Greitens.