Around this time yesterday morning, the Republican Governors Association published a tweet celebrating Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R). As it turns out, the RGA’s timing could’ve been better – because as the Kansas City Star reported hours later, the Republican governor has been indicted by a St. Louis grand jury on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.
The charge stems from a 2015 affair and allegations that he threatened to release a nude photograph of the woman, taken while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, if she ever spoke publicly about the affair.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner launched a criminal investigation of the allegations last month shortly after they become public. The indictment accuses Greitens of not only knowingly photographing the woman with whom he had an affair, but also transmitting the image “in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer.”
The report added that a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter saw the governor “being led down a hallway in the local courthouse by several St. Louis city deputies,” en route to getting a mugshot, just like any other accused criminal.
Greitens, who admits to having an adulterous affair the year before launching his statewide campaign, continues to insist he didn’t break any laws, and lashed out at the “reckless liberal prosecutor” in the case.
For the record, the indictment came by way of a grand jury, not a local prosecutor acting unilaterally.
As regular readers know, sex scandals are not always career-ending controversies, especially in contemporary politics, but Greitens’ mess is qualitatively worse than most. The Missouri Republican is accused of taking nude photographs of his mistress, while she was blindfolded and her hands were tied, which he allegedly followed with a verbal threat.
In an Associated Press interview last month, Greitens was eager to deny any criminal wrongdoing, but he refused to answer a variety of other questions. Now that he’s under indictment, it’s likely the governor will have even less to say.
State lawmakers, however, have no reason for reticence. The Kansas City Star also reported overnight that Missouri’s state House is launching its own investigation into allegations, which is reportedly seen as the first step on the road to impeachment.
And while the state legislature is led by Republicans, Greitens is facing resignation calls from many within his own party.
Let’s also note for context that CNN reported last month that the FBI “recently opened an inquiry” into the Missouri governor.
It wasn’t long ago that many political insiders saw Greitens as a future presidential candidate. The better question now is how much longer he’ll be able to remain in office.
Postscript: Gubernatorial impeachments are exceedingly rare, but not unprecedented. In the modern era, it’s happened twice: Illinois’ Rod Blagojevich (D) was impeached nine years ago, and Arizona’s Evan Mecham (R) was impeached in 1988.