JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As Governor Eric Greitens’ attorneys seek to prevent the impeachment of the embattled Republican governor, the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight’s legal counsel is reminding both caucuses of what their roles are.
Sources tell the Missouri Times that Edward “Chip” Robertson, the legal counselor for the investigative committee and a former state Supreme Court Justice, met with both the House Republican and the Democratic caucuses on Tuesday, where he discussed the impeachment process with them and explained their roles.
He told that them that it was not their duty to decide the Governor’s guilt or innocence, but instead, their role is to determine if the alleged criminal acts meet the constitutional standards to remove the Governor from office.
Once the House decides to move forward with impeachment, then the Senate would choose seven eminent jurists, which Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard stating that they had reached out to former judges for advice on how to go about selecting the jurists, though he has been adamant in his position that they have not proceeded any further.
But the issue of the Governor’s guilt or innocence, Robertson reminded the House members, was not theirs to do. That comes later in the process – their role is simply to decide whether there is cause to proceed.
With the dismissal of the trial, some Republicans have started pulling back, getting cold feet about a potential vote to impeach. And the work of the Governor’s Office lawyers has worked to cast some shadows of doubt upon the issue, particularly the issue of due process.
Sources tell the Times that Robertson told the caucus members that the call from Greitens’ lawyers for due process was not applicable, noting that an impeachment proceeding is more akin to a grand jury proceeding than a trial.
In impeachment proceedings, there is no cross-examination, just like a grand jury.
Indeed, Chairman Jay Barnes also broke down why due process doesn’t apply in the hearing on Wednesday, noting that no one has a right to an elected office and there are no criminal or civil penalties.
One source described Robertson’s addressing of the caucus as almost a foresight into what was coming, with Robertson laying out exactly what Greitens’ attorneys would do in the coming hearing, including the laying out of rules, procedures, and a schedule for the special session.
Robertson, in a previous statement, said that it seemed like the Governor’s legal team doesn’t understand how the impeachment process works, reaffirming what he had told the caucus members.
“The House is not convicting anyone,” he wrote. “Rather, the House serves to determine whether a public official should be impeached. Impeachment is akin to an indictment by a grand jury in some, but certainly not all, ways. Like an indictment, an impeachment is followed by a trial where due process is honored and the official impeached is given a fair hearing.”
But to get to that trial, the House special investigative committee first must file articles of impeachment, which they still have not done. And in the event that they do, the House must vote, as Robertson said, based on whether they believe there are grounds to impeach the Governor, not whether they believe him guilty or innocent. In essence, it’s basically a question of whether the House members feel that he is fit to serve, or could win an election in the current state of things.
And another point that could affect proceedings is exactly how many articles could be filed: some speculate that nearly half a dozen could be in the works, ranging from the use of the Confide app, the Mission Continues donor list, the invasion of privacy investigation, dark money, the filing of false information with the Missouri Ethics Commission, or more.
But for now, the name of the game is waiting; waiting to see how Chairman Barnes handles Greitens’ attorneys’ requests, waiting to see if articles of impeachment will be filed, and what comes next.