Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns Amid Controversy | KUER 90.1

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns Amid Controversy

May 29, 2018
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The governor of Missouri was once seen as a rising star in Republican circles. But he has been facing possible impeachment over an extramarital affair, also facing allegations of misusing a charity donor list. And this evening, Governor Eric Greitens announced his resignation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC GREITENS: I know and people of good faith know that I am not perfect. But I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment.

KELLY: Well, St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann has been covering this story, and she is with us now. And, Rachel, walk us through what led to this decision, what led to this moment tonight.

RACHEL LIPPMANN, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise. We don't know exactly why the governor made this decision tonight. There are rumors going around that it had to do with a subpoena that had been issued by the special committee of the House investigating his actions that related to his campaign committee and a secretive nonprofit he'd set up to advance his agenda. But, yes, he's been under pressure from the Republican Party, his own party, since January.

When that extramarital affair was reported, he'd also been facing criminal charges for allegedly taking a photo of the woman with whom he was having that affair, a seminude photo without her permission. Those charges have been dropped, although it is possible that a prosecutor may refile those charges. So again, we don't know exactly what led to today. But, yes, he has announced that he will resign.

KELLY: And what else did he say in this resignation speech? I mean, what is - how is he explaining this?

LIPPMANN: The governor continued with a sort of combative tone, the theme of an idea that this was a witch hunt. He made it clear that he believed forces that were opposed to him were out to get him, and he couldn't put his family through the ongoing strain of this. He had millions of dollars in mounting legal bills that his attorney said he was paying out of his own pocket. But he added that he will let the fairness of the process be judged by history. And as you played in that clip at the top, he does not believe that he has done anything legally wrong.

KELLY: Worth reminding people that before all of this started unfurling, these - in these last few months, he had national ambitions. I mean, as we mentioned, this is a rising Republican star or was a rising Republican star, an ex-Navy SEAL.

LIPPMANN: That's absolutely right, Mary Louise. He had even - excuse me - reserved the domain names Greitens for President, Greitens 2020. It was pretty clear from when he lost the respect of the Republican Party in the state and when this affair was initially unveiled that he had likely lost most of his chance for national political gain, national political stardom. Although I think he was hoping maybe there could be a redemption story. He would be cleared of all of these charges. He could show that it was a witch hunt, that he hadn't done anything incorrect and sort of be able to rise above it all. We don't know what prompted him, again, to resign.

But you would think that stepping down in this fashion and under the cloud that he's under not only because of this extramarital affair but also allegations of campaign finance violations eliminates a lot of the chance he probably has of any national stardom. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the context of Missouri's Senate race as his likely - excuse me - Claire McCaskill's likely challenger attorney general Josh Hawley has been tightly linked to the governor until the last couple of months.

KELLY: It will also be interesting to see how this plays out in court. He has resigned, but he's still under indictment. Where do the legal accusations go from here?

LIPPMANN: He has one felony charge pending for allegedly misusing a donor list from his charity for his campaign. And it is also possible that a special prosecutor will refile charges against him for allegedly taking that picture. This is a prosecutor out in the Kansas City area. She has until June 11 to make the decision whether to refile those charges.

KELLY: All right, thank you, Rachel.

LIPPMANN: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.