BREAKING: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens announces resignation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Republican Governor Eric R. Greitens is stepping down from office amidst multiple investigations concerning sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations, though he maintains his innocence.

The second-year governor on Tuesday announced that he would leave office effective Friday, June 1, elevating current Lt. Gov. Mike Parson to the vacant seat.

“Today I am announcing that I will resign as Governor of Missouri effective Friday, June 1 at 5 p.m.,” Greitens said in a press conference. “I came to office to fight for the people of Missouri, to fight for the forgotten. I love Missouri and I love our people. That love remains.”

It’s a surprising move from the fiery Republican, a former Navy SEAL who had a meteoric rise to the state’s top executive position. The Governor resigned the same day a Cole County judge ruled in favor of the House for more information from the Governor’s political committees.

“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my family, for my team, for my friends and for many people that I love,” Greitens said. “This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family, millions of dollars in mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends, legal harassment of colleagues, friends and campaign workers, and it’s clear that for those that oppose us, there is no end in sight.”

Greitens maintained innocence, saying he has not broken any laws.

“I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love. I know and people of good faith know that I am not perfect,” Greitens continued. “But I have not broken any laws, nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment. I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history. It has been a great honor and a privilege to serve as your governor. Travelling the state I have talked to many of you who harbor extraordinary anger at this ordeal and for those who have pushed and promoted it.

“For those who would be moved to vengeance, let us allow history and God to bring justice. We must, as we have always done, work to improve the lives of those around us. This is not the end of our fight. I will always be a fighter for the people of Missouri. A great deal of work is left undone. The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded and to care for those who need us most.”

Less than one week after hearing arguments from House counsel and the attorney for A New Missouri and the campaign committee Greitens for Missouri, Judge Jon Beetem issued a six-page ruling Tuesday morning ordering the two entities to produce the documents that had been requested by Rep. Jay Barnes and the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight.

Beetem’s order concerned the House’s request for documents related to the ongoing work of the investigative committee that was tasked with determining whether to bring articles of impeachment forward against Greitens. That decision, it seems, proved to be one of the final straw in Greitens’ decision to step down.

Greitens first hit the political realm when he announced his campaign in 2015, where he reached voters on his platform as a conservative outsider seeking to clean up corruption in Missouri.

A native St. Louisan, Greitens had studied abroad as a Rhodes scholar before joining the Navy SEALS, where he served and won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. After leaving the military, Greitens began a nonprofit dedicated to veterans’ issues. He became a motivational speaker and author, penning three books, and even earned a spot on Time magazine’s 2013 “100 Most Influential People” list.

It was a stellar resume for someone looking to enter politics, and though he had been a lifelong Democrat, he announced his intent to run as a Republican, touting his resume and reputation as a family man and outsider.

After securing victory in the Republican primary amidst a field of candidates with household names, Greitens managed to overcome Democratic candidate Chris Koster in a sweeping red victory in November of 2016.

Upon entering the office of Governor, Greitens quickly looked to deliver on several of his campaign promises, one of the first of which was implementing a ban on lobbyist gifts in the office.

He then set his sights on pushing numerous changes to the state’s rules and laws, in an effort to create a better business environment. He helped push legislation passing right-to-work across the finish line, signing the bill while the legislative session was still underway.

He also pushed forward for change to the state’s legal environment, including the passage of the Daubert standard. He continued advocating for law enforcement, and was visible when protests erupted once again in St. Louis following the Stockley verdict.

It seemed that Greitens had been destined for an upward trajectory, with a successful first year in the bag. But delivering his second State of the State address proved to be the turning point. After delivering the speech, news broke later that night when it was reported that he had engaged in an extramarital affair in 2015.

The ex-husband of Greitens’ former mistress recorded audio of the woman describing how Greitens photographed her in a compromising manner and threatened to use the photo as blackmail.

“You’re never going to mention my name, otherwise this picture will be everywhere,” she quoted him as saying on the tape.

Following the news, Greitens admitted to the affair, calling it a mistake, but insisted that it had been a consensual relationship, and that he had never blackmailed the woman nor threatened to do so.

Greitens was indicted for felony invasion of privacy relating to the woman with whom he had an affair, but those charges have since been dismissed. He is still facing a charge for felony computer tampering. Greitens is accused of taking a fundraising list from The Mission Continues — the charity he helped start — without the organization’s permission, and using that information to raise money for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

Following Greitens’ announcement, Jean Peters Baker, the Cole County prosecutor who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the invasion of privacy case, said her investigation into the now former governor would continue.

“For the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high,” Greitens said. “We have a good and proud story to tell our children. Let’s love them and each other every day.”

State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a statement, saying the “corruption must be cleaned up.”

“Corruption in state government became worse than ever under Eric Greitens,” Galloway said. “That corruption must be cleaned up, and our state’s reputation must be restored. This can only happen if leaders put the needs of Missourians ahead of themselves.”

Following the Governor’s announcement, House leadership issued a statement saying that they stand ready to help ensure a smooth transition from Greitens to Parson, and thanking the special investigative committee for its work.

“We believe the Governor has put the best interest of Missourians first today by choosing to resign. The past few months have been difficult for everyone involved, including the Governor and his family. This is a serious and solemn occasion that reminds us that our state and our duty are bigger than any one person or party.

The House stands ready to help ensure a smooth transition of power to Governor Parson. The hallmark of democracy is that our public service is temporary. Missouri has been blessed with an unbroken line of men and women in public service who have worked to make our state better, and the work of the many dedicated public servants, who work tirelessly for the people of Missouri, will continue.

The responsibility the House undertook with its investigation is not a path any of us would have chosen, but it is one we were obligated to pursue in an effort to do what is best for our state. We want to thank the members of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight for the serious and professional manner in which they went about their task. We also want to thank the staff for the countless hours and sacrifices they made.

As public servants, our solemn duty is to put the best interests of the people of this great state first in every decision we make. The Governor’s decision today honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward toward a better tomorrow.”

Attorney General Josh Hawley also applauded the Governor’s resignation.

“Governor Greitens has done the right thing today,” Hawley said. “I wish incoming Governor Mike Parson well, and stand ready to assist him in his transition. This Office’s work for the people of Missouri goes forward.”

House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo issued the following joint statement regarding the decision of Gov. Greitens to resign from his office:

“We believe the Governor has put the best interest of Missourians first today by choosing to resign. The past few months have been difficult for everyone involved, including the Governor and his family. This is a serious and solemn occasion that reminds us that our state and our duty are bigger than any one person or party.

“The House stands ready to help ensure a smooth transition of power to Governor Parson. The hallmark of democracy is that our public service is temporary. Missouri has been blessed with an unbroken line of men and women in public service who have worked to make our state better, and the work of the many dedicated public servants, who work tirelessly for the people of Missouri, will continue.

“The responsibility the House undertook with its investigation is not a path any of us would have chosen, but it is one we were obligated to pursue in an effort to do what is best for our state. We want to thank the members of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight for the serious and professional manner in which they went about their task. We also want to thank the staff for the countless hours and sacrifices they made.

“As public servants, our solemn duty is to put the best interests of the people of this great state first in every decision we make. The Governor’s decision today honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward toward a better tomorrow.”

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh responded saying she hopes to see “how deep the corruption went.”

“Innocent people don’t resign and criminals don’t get let off the hook simply because they cut and run. Missourians deserve to know what laws were broken, what lies were told, and how deep the corruption went,” said Walsh.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty responded to the resignation, saying, “The brief and deeply troubled term of Eric Greitens is a case study for why Missouri’s highest elected office is no place for beginners. Gov. Mike Parson possesses the integrity his predecessor lacked, and House Democrats will offer him whatever assistance we can as he begins the difficult task of restoring credibility to state government.”

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson reacted to the announcement of resignation on Twitter.

“I thank the governor for his service,” Krewson said in a tweet. “I know this was a hard decision. My hope is that we get back to working for the people and doing the business of the state.”

Both U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, Treasurer Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Matt Blunt called for unity after the turbulent time and lent their assistance with the transition of incoming-Gov. Mike Parson.

“Now is the time for the people of Missouri to come together and work toward a better future for our state,” Schmitt said. “My focus is on helping to ensure a smooth transition of power so that state government can continue to serve Missourians without interruption. To that end, my office will be actively working with partners across state agencies and departments to help facilitate the transition process.”

“The governor made the best decision for his family and the state,” U.S. Sen. Blunt said. “I look forward to to Gov. Parson’s leadership and will do everything I can to be helpful.” Roy Blunt.

“Serving as Missouri’s governor is a great honor and I know Mike Parson will be worthy of this new responsibility,” Gov. Blunt said. “With Mike Parson as governor, Missourians will have a public servant dedicated to working with the legislature to move our state forward.  I have known Mike for many years and worked with him in the legislature when I was governor. As a former sheriff, he is a law and order leader who will bring that experience to the governor’s office. Mike has always been someone interested in results, no matter who gets the credit and I know he will work well with House and Senate leadership and legislators in both parties to get things done for Missourians.”

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