Gov. Eric Greitens, beset by investigations and facing the specter of impeachment, said today he will resign June 1 at 5 p.m.
In a terse press conference at the governor’s office in Jefferson City, Greitens said he has faced an “ordeal … 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 the forces that oppose us, there is no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love,” he said.
“I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect,” he added. “But I haven’t broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment. I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.” He did not take questions.
Appealing to his supporters and appearing to fight back tears, Greitens said it was “time to tend to those who have been wounded and to care for those who need us most.”
“So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high,” he said.
Greitens’s announcement came hours after Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ordered a secretive nonprofit group formed to support Greitens to turn over documents subpoenaed by the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, which has been reviewing potential wrongdoing by the governor in recent weeks. The judge ruled that A New Missouri must turn over the documents immediately and finish doing so by Friday.
Beetem ordered compliance with subpoena requests for any communications and documents showing potential coordination between Greitens, his campaign committee and A New Missouri; and communications and expenditures by A New Missouri related to media advertising.
The judge said the identities of any donors to A New Missouri could be redacted from the documents.
Greitens’ resignation ends a tumultuous 17-month tenure marked by conflicts with lawmakers, skirmishes with the media regarding his administration’s lack of openness, questions regarding campaign finances and ultimately a series of legal issues that emerged publicly in January.
Hours after Greitens gave his state of the state address on Jan. 10, KMOV-TV broke the story of his affair with his former hairdresser, whose identity was not officially released but who came to be known in court documents as “K.S.”
On Feb. 22, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner secured an indictment against Greitens for felony invasion of privacy, alleging that in March 2015, Greitens took a nonconsensual semi-nude photo of “K.S.” while she was blindfolded and bound to exercise equipment in the basement of his home in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis.
Greitens confirmed the affair, but he has consistently denied criminal wrongdoing and denounced the prosecution as a “political witch hunt.”
On April 11, the House investigative committee released an extensive report on its review of the matter. Among its findings:
K.S. has also alleged that Greitens used the photo as leverage to force her into silence about their affair, but that allegation is not part of the indictment.
Gardner withdrew the case against Greitens last month but vowed to refile it. Circuit Judge Rex Burlison barred her from handling it personally, however, due to her involvement and that of others on her staff in aspects of pre-trial investigation. The case has been turned over to Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker, who is considering whether to refile the charges.
The governor’s troubles do not end with the matter of the photo.
In a separate case, the office of Attorney General Josh Hawley in March announced its own investigation to determine if Greitens’ gubernatorial campaign had improperly obtained a donor list from The Mission Continues, a veterans’ charity Greitens founded.
At least some evidence gathered by Hawley’s office was given to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney, who filed a criminal complaint against Greitens on April 20, alleging two counts of computer-tampering. The legislature also scheduled a special session after its regular session ended to consider impeachment proceedings against Greitens.
Greitens attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
In May, Washington University announced in May that it too was investigating Greitens, who in 2010 won a $362,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation that is managed by the university. Administrators said that in reaction to the findings of the House committee, they would investigate whether Greitens misused the grant funds for his campaign.
In a statement released late today, Gardner said that her office had reached a “fair and just resolution” of the pending charges with Greitens’ defense team. Gardner’s statement did not elaborate, but said more information would be announced Wednesday.
Baker, however, said her office’s “investigation continues,” and that their work will continue until the case is completed.
“Our review of this case, as I have stated before, will be pursued without fear or favor,” she said.
Following Greitens statement other officials reacted:
“Governor Greitens has done the right thing today. 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,” Attorney General Josh Hawley wrote on Twitter.