Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Tuesday that his office has turned up evidence indicating that Gov. Eric Greitens may have committed a felony in matters relating to a veterans’ charity he founded.
The announcement may be a sign that Missouri Republicans are moving towards abandoning their embattled governor, who has faced calls to step down since being charged in February in connection with claims that he tried to blackmail a woman with whom he was having an affair.
In a Tuesday press conference, Hawley said that his investigators believe Greitens obtained the donor list for the charity, The Mission Continues, and had it sent it to his 2016 gubernatorial campaign to use for political fundraising.
“This is known as computer tampering,” said Hawley, alleging that Greitens did not seek the charity’s permission to take the list. “And given the value of the list in question, it is a felony.”
Hawley, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, said he had turned evidence over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, as the alleged criminal act occurred in her jurisdiction. Hawley said it will be up to Gardner to decide whether to press charges.
Greitens dismissed Hawley’s claims as “ridiculous” in a statement responding to the announcement, calling Hawley “better at press conferences than the law.”
In a statement provided to TPM, Gardner’s office said they are “reviewing the evidence” but “can’t discuss any specifics at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.”
A grand jury convened by Gardner indicted Greitens in February on a separate felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual nude photo of a woman with whom he carried out a 2015 affair, with the intent to transmit it.
Greitens has admitted to the relationship. He has adamantly denied the allegations of blackmail, sexual coercion and physical violence that were laid out by the woman in vivid detail in testimony presented to a Missouri House committee investigating the various claims against the governor. The House panel’s preliminary report was released last week, and another legislative report, focused on Greitens’ work with the Mission Continues, is expected in May.
After the House report came out last week, Hawley called for Greitens to step down immediately or be impeached for his “shocking” misconduct.
Greitens has painted the allegations against him as part of a partisan witch hunt. Gardner is a Democrat, but five of the seven members of the House committee, in addition to Hawley, are Republicans.
The bones of the charity scandal have been public since his 2016 campaign. Just weeks before the election, the Associated Press revealed an overlap between donors to Greitens’ charity, which he founded in 2007 and left in 2014, and his campaign. At the time, Greitens adamantly denied using Mission Continues’ donor list.
But after a complaint was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Greitens ultimately agreed to pay a fine and acknowledge that he received the list as an in-kind donation from his campaign manager, Daniel Laub. The Mission Continues has denied turning their list over to anyone associated with Greitens’ campaign.
Interest in this unusual set of affairs was reignited following Greitens’ initial felony conviction. Gardner announced she would be looking into the charity, while Hawley announced in early March that his office had an “open inquiry” into the Mission Continues.
Hawley has been criticized by his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, Sen.Claire McCaskill, for failing to launch probes into Greitens’ conduct earlier.
On Tuesday, McCaskill’s campaign said that this belated discovery of possible criminal behavior “shows gross incompetence on the part of the Attorney General,” given that the basic information about the charity misconduct first surfaced in October 2016. McCaskill accused Hawley of “trying to protect his friend and large donor for as long as possible.”
Greitens’ full statement is below:
Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law. Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous. Josh has turned the “evidence” he claims to have over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner—a liberal prosecutor funded by George Soros who allegedly subpoenaed perjury, falsified documents, and withheld evidence. We will dispense with these false allegations.
This post has been updated.