Government & Politics

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens says he will deploy with Navy, sources say

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has told friends and supporters in recent weeks that he plans to deploy with the Navy to the Middle East in the fall and hopes his fourth book will be published later this year.

Earlier this month Greitens attended a gathering in Franklin County organized by longtime GOP activist Robbie Brouk, where he shared his short-term plans regarding his return to active Navy service and forthcoming book.

Greitens has also shared his plans with others in meetings across the state over the past month, multiple sources told The Kansas City Star.

In 2017, Greitens was put on inactive status with the Standby Reserve, which allowed him to retain his commission but not to accrue time served to apply towards retirement. The status comes with no pay and does not make him eligible for promotion.

He applied for a transfer to selected reserves in April 2019 and late Wednesday the Navy confirmed that he had been approved to return to active status as a general unrestricted line officer. That means while Greitens, 45, is returning to active status as a naval reserve officer, he will not be performing the duties of a SEAL, the Navy said. A clearer description of his role was not available.

“His transfer was approved,” Lt. Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, Navy Recruiting Command Public Affairs. She said Greitens is now affiliated with the Navy Operational Support Center in St Louis.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published Greitens’ previous three books, told The Star it does not have anything new from Greitens under contract.

Greitens could not immediately be reached for comment.

Greitens, a Republican, resigned from office a year ago next week, succumbing to an avalanche of scandals and criminal charges — including accusations that he engaged in violent and coercive sexual misconduct during a 2015 affair.

Despite his exit in disgrace from the governor’s office, the specter of his possible return to public life looms over Missouri politics.

Greitens has been spotted around the state and in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks, meeting with former staff and political operatives.

His still-active gubernatorial campaign spent roughly $15,000 during the first three months of 2019 on staff salaries and reimbursements for travel, meals and other expenses. The campaign also paid nearly $20,000 worth of reimbursement of older travel expenses to Jimmy Soni, a longtime Greitens friend and former communications adviser.

But his confidantes told The Star they haven’t had any indication from Greitens that he’s eyeing a return to politics in 2020.

Brouk said the picnic gathering where he mentioned his Navy plans was a private party with friends and relatives. She was surprised when Greitens agreed to attend, and said the occasion was “absolutely non-political.” As far as Brouk knows, Greitens “is not looking at anything political” in the near future.

But she said there’s a faction of grassroots Republican activists who feel Greitens was unfairly pushed out and who would like to see him run for elective office again.

“I do think that’s wishful thinking from people in Missouri,” Brouk said. “I think there’s just rumors all over that people wish he would run, and time will tell...Our election was stolen from us.”

A GOP operative who attended one of the meetings Greitens has held around the state in recent weeks said the former governor appeared to be more focused on a future federal race, specifically U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat in 2022, than any state office.

Diane Neff, managing director of America First MO PAC, said she has also heard Greitens is thinking about a run for Senate one day. She dismissed the idea of a primary challenge to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in 2020.

Greitens “has enemies in Jefferson City that would really work against him. This would be more of clean slate for him,” Neff said of a possible Senate run. She said he still has support among grassroots conservatives in the state.

“People think he was run out of Jefferson City and they don’t like that,” Neff said. “And Blunt’s popularity is waning.”

As evidence that Blunt could be vulnerable, Neff pointed to the backlash he received from some conservatives after he voted to block President Donald Trump’s use of emergency powers to build a border wall.

Greitens for Missouri, which was created for his 2016 gubernatorial run, filed an amendment with the Missouri Ethics Commission in May 2018 re-focusing its aim on the 2020 GOP primary for governor.

That tactic is not unusual for a dormant committee, as many former elected officials maintain campaign accounts for years after they leave office.

Jay Nixon, Greitens’ predecessor, spent $85,239 through his campaign committee for about a year before closing it down. The expenses ranged from donations, hotel and catering fees, software and a portrait.

Matt Blunt, a one-term governor before Nixon, kept spending through his committee for about five years after leaving office until it wound down in 2014. It spent money on legal fees, public communications, accounting and political donations. It spent $179,657 in those five years, even though Blunt never again sought public office.

Neither Blunt’s or Nixon’s committee spent as much as Greitens’ committee spent in the last quarter alone, when Greitens for Missouri reported spending $240,000, mostly on legal fees.

State law requires that candidates only spend campaign cash on campaign matters. Office holders can spend it on official duties.

Scott Turk, who served as director of boards and commissions in the governor’s office, began working for Greitens for Missouri since January 2018.

Since Greitens’ June resignation, Turk has been paid $5,500 a month and has been reimbursed for around $3,300 worth of mileage, meals, office supplies and other expenses.

Turk said he left his employment with the campaign in February.

The campaign also paid Dylan Johnson $1,200 on March 1 for “campaign worker compensation, although it is unclear when the services were rendered. Johnson, who previously served as “advance lead” in the governor’s office, was paid another $1,000 for mileage and other expenses.

Beyond the staff spending, Greitens for Missouri also disclosed legal expenses to three law firms.

Chalmers Burch & Adams LLC was paid $12,800.

That’s the law firm of Michael Adams, the attorney who helped organize Greitens nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., and who continues to serve as its director.

On Tuesday, Adams won the GOP nomination for secretary of state in Kentucky. He did not respond to a request for comment by The Star.

Clark Hill PLC, a DC law firm, was paid $56,000.

Husch Blackwell LLP was paid $117,000. This is the firm of Catherine Hanaway, a former Missouri House speaker who represents A New Missouri and Greitens’ campaign.

If he ever does attempt a return to Missouri politics, the allegations of illegal conduct that brought him down will certainly resurface.

Greitens was elected in 2016 on a campaign focused on rooting corruption out of Jefferson City.

He was forced from office a year and a half later under threat of impeachment and further criminal prosecution over a series of scandals that enveloped his administration.

Greitens was charged with two felonies in St. Louis County — invasion of privacy and computer tampering.

The first felony charge stemmed from accusations by a woman with whom Greitens had an affair in 2015.

The woman said under oath both to prosecutors and a legislative committee considering impeachment that Greitens taped her hands to pull-up rings in his basement, blindfolded her, spit water into her mouth, ripped open her shirt, pulled down her pants and took a photo without her consent.

She says he also threatened to make the photos public if she ever told anyone about their encounter.

Greitens denied any wrongdoing and the charge was eventually dropped, with the prosecutor citing statutes of limitation and potentially missing evidence.

The second involved allegations that he illegally used a donor list from veterans charity he founded to jumpstart his political career.

That charge was also dropped as part of a deal that forced Greitens from office.

This story has been updated twice. First to reflect official confirmation of Greitens’ status from the Navy and then to clarify that he will not perform the duties of a Navy Seal.

Hancock reported from Jefferson City, Wise and Copp from Washington and Vockrodt from Kansas City.

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