Indictments, Sexual Blackmail and an Affair: Missouri's Republican Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns in Disgrace

On Tuesday afternoon, following months of scandals, indictments in two separate criminal cases, and looming impeachment proceedings, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens finally announced he would resign effective Friday. Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who upset the GOP establishment in winning his 2016 primary for governor and had designs on the presidency, saw his career begin to unravel early this year, when a local TV station reported that he’d had an extra-marital affair with a woman who cut his hair, then blackmailed her into silence by taking a photo of her nude, bound, and blindfolded.


Those explosive allegations prompted St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner to indict Greitens on charges of first-degree felony invasion of privacy in February, and they also convinced the state legislature to commence its own investigation. In April, lawmakers released a damning report that found the woman to be a “credible witness” and disclosed new accusations, including her claim that Greitens coerced her into performing oral sex even as she wept “uncontrollably.”

Later that same month, Greitens was indicted a second time, this time on unrelated charges of computer tampering. Those charges stemmed from an investigation into whether his gubernatorial campaign improperly obtained a list of donors from The Mission Continues, a charity for veterans that Greitens founded and ran until stepping down the year before he began his run for governor.

All the while, Greitens insisted that the accusations against him were “lies” (though he acknowledged the affair) and declared himself the victim of a “political witch hunt,” blaming liberals and even conservative bogeyman George Soros. Yet the biggest threat to his career always lurked in the legislature, despite the fact that both chambers are dominated by his fellow Republicans. Indeed, as one unnamed legislator put it, “Eric Greitens spent a year calling every Republican in the state corrupt. I'll be shocked if any of them stand up for him as an alleged blackmailing psychopath.”

Greitens had campaigned for office as a Trumpian outsider—his most notorious ads featured him literally blowing stuff up with a high-powered firearm—and his nonstop war with his own party ensured that lawmakers would forge ahead with their impeachment inquiry, even after Gardner was forced to dismiss the invasion of privacy charges for procedural reasons. (A special prosecutor was quickly reassigned to the case.)

So even if Greitens had skated on all legal charges, he would likely still have faced impeachment. Now, though, the reverse may well be true: Since he appears to have quit without announcing a deal with prosecutors, Greitens could still be in legal jeopardy even though he's out of office.

With Greitens’ departure, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, will take his place. Greitens’ political future, though, is gone for good.

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