Missouri lawmakers push Greitens probe after charge dropped

11 months 1 week 19 hours ago Tuesday, May 15 2018 May 15, 2018 Tuesday, May 15, 2018 10:15:00 AM CDT May 15, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens no longer faces a felony charge stemming from an extramarital affair, but a legislative panel signaled Tuesday that it's pushing forward with its own expanded investigation into a variety of allegations against the Republican governor.

The House investigatory panel, which already has released scathing reports about Greitens' affair and his political use of a charity donor list, decided to call a Greitens policy aide as a witness and to issue subpoenas related to a potential attempt to funnel money from secret donors to Greitens' 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

The Legislature is to convene in a monthlong special session Friday to consider whether to initiate impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office. Legislative leaders said those plans remain unchanged, despite a decision Monday by St. Louis prosecutors to drop a felony invasion-of-privacy charge alleging Greitens took a revealing and unauthorized photo of a woman with whom he acknowledged having an affair in 2015.

The St. Louis circuit attorney's office said it still plans to pursue the case, either through a special prosecutor or an appointed assistant. But Greitens' attorneys said the case was crumbling under a lack of evidence and doubted any charge would be refiled.

Greitens remains charged with a second felony in St. Louis for allegedly disclosing a donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans' charity he founded. No trial date has been set.

Previous reports from the House investigatory committee showed Greitens was consulting and paying political aides in 2014, well before he officially established a political fundraising committee in February 2015. State law says committees are to be formed when candidates raise or spend over $500.

The House panel released a document Tuesday showing political consultant Michael Hafner had advised Greitens about ways to create an exploratory or candidate committee in December 2014.

It also released a memo written in July 2016 by Will Scharf, who now is Greitens' policy director but at the time was working for Greitens' GOP primary rival Catherine Hanaway. The memo described the creation of two obscure limited liability companies, apparently "to channel contributions to the Greitens campaign from an anonymous donor or donors." The panel voted to call Scharf as a witness and subpoena information about the companies.

The prosecutor's surprise move Monday to drop a felony charge against Greitens came after the third day of jury selection in his trial.

"This is a great victory and it has been a long time coming," Greitens told reporters outside the courthouse. "This experience has been humbling and I have emerged from it a changed man."

The decision came after a court ruled that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had to provide a statement under oath at the request of Greitens' attorneys, who had repeatedly criticized her handling of the case. Greitens' defense team had accused Gardner of allowing private investigator William Tisaby, whom she hired, to commit perjury and withhold evidence from defense attorneys.

Missouri's rules of professional conduct prohibit attorneys from litigating a case in which they've been called as a witness.

Gardner spokeswoman Susan Ryan told The Associated Press: "We will refile charges or ask a special prosecutor to do so."

Greitens, 44, was charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking and transmitting a photo of an at least partially nude woman without her permission on March 21, 2015. If convicted, Greitens could have faced up to four years in prison. Greitens has declined to directly answer questions about whether he took the photo.

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