Impeaching and removing any officeholder is rightly difficult, and ousting Gov. Eric Greitens could drag on into the fall. Greitens has repeatedly said he will not go willingly. Because he’s done nothing actionable, and because that’s not what Navy SEALs do.
On Thursday, the New Yorker published a piece on Greitens’ reputation within the Navy SEAL community, where he’s seen as the hey-look-at-me antithesis of the part of the SEAL credo that states “I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.” Without lying outright, he does seem to have encouraged misimpressions about his service supporting front-line SEAL missions.
Many SEALs, the story says, complain “that it tends to be those who are least representative of SEAL core values, such as Greitens, who end up trading on the group’s reputation and representing it in public, earning respect from American citizens but contempt from other SEALs…‘The guys who are the reason the SEALs are so respected are the guys on the front lines,’ one former officer said. ‘Their families are suffering; sometimes they develop P.T.S.D., or traumatic brain injuries.’ That Greitens launched his political career on the back of those types of sacrifices struck many SEALs as dishonest. ‘I was doing back-to-back deployments, sometimes only four months in between,’ one told me, ‘and this guy never showed up.’ ’’
As if to prove that man’s point, on the same day the New Yorker story came out, Greitens compared his current situation to that time he was carrying a heavy log on a beach during SEAL training. Back then, the governor said, “I thought to myself, ‘If I were alone right now, I’d probably quit.’ Then “I looked to my left and I saw someone who was counting on me. I looked to my right and I saw someone who was counting on me.”
Which naturally reminded him, as he faces criminal charges and removal from office, that “no matter what they throw at me, no matter how painful they try to make it, no matter how much suffering they want to put me and my family through and my team through, I want you to know that when I look to my left, I see you. And when I look to my right, I see your family and your friends and our neighbors and our community.”
Self-deception that solid can only be countered with the greatest possible resolve. Members of the Missouri House must stay focused on the facts, which all point in the same direction.
▪ Sexual misconduct. Greitens insists that his 2015 sexual relationship with his former hairdresser was consensual. But an affair is not what legislators must address. The woman at the center of the case has offered credible testimony, reluctantly and under oath, that the governor struck her, threatened her and coerced her into oral sex while she sobbed. Greitens has never testified about what happened or met with House investigators at all. Unlike the governor, his victim has no plausible reason to lie. And her allegations, backed up by the sworn testimony of her now ex-husband and two friends she told about Greitens’ behavior at the time, add up to the misconduct and moral turpitude that are grounds for impeachment.
▪ Use of social media and of shell corporations. The governor’s use of a phone app that deletes text messages after they’re read violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the state’s Sunshine Law. Greitens has finally acknowledged that he sometimes used the Confide app to do government business, but insists he communicated nothing that should have been subject to the state’s open records laws. Though far less explosive than the allegations of physical and sexual violence, use of the app does violate the public trust, and is part of an unmistakable pattern of secrecy. Allegations that shell corporations were used to launder campaign donations must be run to ground.
▪ Electronic theft. Greitens has been charged with felony computer tampering related to accusations that he stole and illegally used a list of donors to the veterans charity he founded, The Mission Continues.
▪ Lying. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has accused Greitens of breaking the law by knowingly filing a false campaign finance report about the donor list. He won’t be charged with that, the Cole County prosecutor said on Friday. But there’s a mountain of evidence that Greitens hasn’t been honest. After the Associated Press broke the story that Greitens used the donor list to raise campaign funds, he denied ever doing any such thing.
He did, though. The governor’s former campaign manager, Danny Laub, told investigators that Greitens lied to the state ethics commission about how he got the list, and that the governor’s top adviser tricked Laub into taking the blame. Krystal Proctor, Greitens’ former assistant, testified that she sent the donor list to Laub and another aide at Greitens’ direct instruction. There was no doubt, she said, that it was going to be used for fundraising. Greitens denies this, as he has all wrongdoing, and says it was his former subordinates who used the donor list in political fundraising.
▪ Greitens is accused of running an off-the-books campaign operation in 2014 and part of 2015, paying staff out of his own pocket instead of following state law and creating a campaign committee.
Each one of these involves impeachable misconduct, moral turpitude or both. Taken together, they show a man who plays so fast and loose with rules, laws, the truth and other people that his removal from office is mandatory.