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Sex scandal gets vastly more serious for Missouri's GOP governor

In contemporary politics, sex scandals are not always career-ending. But the allegations surrounding Missouri's Eric Greitens are vastly more serious.
Image: Eric Greitens
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens delivers the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Jefferson...

In contemporary politics, sex scandals are not always career-ending controversies. The public is often forgiving, for example, when politicians are contrite about mistakes in their personal lives.

But make no mistake: the allegations surrounding Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) are vastly more serious than routine controversies about adultery. The Kansas City Star  reported overnight:

When she tried to leave, sobbing after a non-consensual sexual encounter, she says the man who would be governor physically stopped her.What happened next, she testified under oath to a Missouri House committee investigating allegations of misconduct against Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, is spelled out in graphic detail in a 25-page report and transcripts of testimony that the lawmakers released Wednesday.It's the first time the public has heard sworn testimony from the woman at the center of allegations of misconduct against the governor.

The full report is online here. I should emphasize that it's quite graphic and explains in some detail alleged non-consensual sexual assaults.

The governor, who's acknowledged the pre-election affair but who's denied criminal wrongdoing, was originally dealing with a controversy about blackmail. The findings from the state House committee -- which was led by members of Greitens' own party -- take the story in a qualitatively different, and more gut-wrenching, direction.

Nevertheless, the governor preempted yesterday's report with a forceful denial, and he insists his extra-marital affair was consensual.

The number of people sympathetic to his argument is shrinking. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate and someone generally seen as a Greitens ally, has called on him to "resign immediately."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tony Messenger added, "Like Latin words carved in marble in the stately halls of the state Capitol, state lawmakers on Wednesday chiseled the epitaph on the stone marking the shallow political grave of Missouri's 56th governor, Eric Robert Greitens.... The testimony rings a bell that cannot be unrung."

If Greitens rejects calls for his resignation, impeachment is a real possibility. The KC Star reported, "Republican legislative leaders -- including House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard -- announced the report was enough to warrant a special session to consider disciplinary actions, including impeachment."

In the meantime, the indictment against the governor on one count of felony invasion of privacy is still pending, and his trial is scheduled to begin next month. (For what it's worth, Greitens' former charity has also been subpoenaed as part of a probe into possible campaign-finance violations.)

Given the circumstances, it seems safe to say it's only a matter of time before the governor is forced from office.