Woman in Greitens affair says basement encounter at center of felony charge was not consensual
Updated at 8 p.m. with reactions from state officials including Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who called for the governor to resign — The woman with whom Gov. Eric Greitens had an affair in 2015 told a special Missouri House committee investigating his conduct that she felt coerced into a sexual act during one of their early meetings.
The woman, who had been Greitens’ hair stylist, told the committee that Greitens was “controlling” during the encounter on March 21, 2015, tying her to pull-up rings in his basement and tearing her shirt and pants without her consent. She also told the committee she felt compelled to perform oral sex in order to be able to get to work on time.
“It felt like consent, but no, I didn’t want to do it,” she told the committee. “I felt as though that would allow me to leave.”
The committee’s interim report, released Wednesday, does not recommend actions the General Assembly should take against the governor. A final report is expected in May, at the end of the legislative session.
Greitens angrily denied the allegations in the report, calling the process a witch hunt.
“The people of Missouri see through this. And they know far better than to trust one-sided tabloid trash gossip that was produced in a secret report,” he said.
The House voted unanimously in March to set up the committee after Greitens was charged with felony invasion of privacy. He is accused of taking a semi-nude photo of the woman without her consent, then transmitting it in a way that it could be accessed by a computer. Greitens admitted to the affair, but has pleaded not guilty to the crime. His trial is set to start May 14.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said in a news conference Wednesday in Jefferson City that he would work with the Senate to call a special session after May 18, the final day of the legislative session, to consider what penalties, if any, Greitens should face. They could range from a reprimand to impeachment. Calling the session would require approval from three-fourths of the members in each chamber.
Greitens’ fellow Republican, Attorney General Josh Hawley, in a statement issued Wednesday evening, urged the governor to step down before impeachment proceedings could begin. He is the highest-ranking GOP politician to take that stand.
“The House Investigative Committee’s Report contains shocking, substantial, and corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by Governor Greitens,” said Hawley, who is the leading candidate to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, in November. “The conduct the report details is certainly impeachable, in my judgment, and the House is well within its rights to proceed on that front. But the people of Missouri should not be put through that ordeal. Governor Greitens should resign immediately.”
What’s in the report?
Read the full report here — please note that it contains material of a sensitive and sexual nature.
While the woman admitted to lawmakers that she did not see Greitens with a camera or a phone during the encounter, she said she saw a flash through the blindfold and was left feeling as though her “privacy was invaded.” The House report noted that “the committee does not possess any physical or electronic evidence of a photograph or its transmission,” a point the governor’s defense attorneys have repeatedly emphasized.
The woman also repeated claims that the governor had repeatedly threatened to release the photo if she spoke about the affair to anyone.
“‘You’re not going to mention my name,’” the woman said Greitens told her. “‘If you do, I’m going to take these pictures, and I’m going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are.”
She said the governor told her he was running for office, and needed the photos to protect himself. Greitens announced his campaign six months later.
The woman admitted she saw Greitens a few more times between March and October, and that one of those encounters included consensual oral sex. But she said the governor was frequently aggressive with her, slapping her when she admitted she had had sex with her husband and again at another meeting.
She told the committee she continued the relationship because she “wanted to feel better about it. I didn’t want to think that he thought of me as a whore. I wanted to think that he actually really liked me and wanted to have a relationship with me.”
Lawmakers said in the report they found the woman’s testimony credible. They noted that her statements to friends and to her ex-husband, a conversation he secretly recorded, were consistent with key portions of what she herself told the committee. The ex-husband, as well as two confidants of the woman, also testified.
The ex-husband told the committee that an unidentified third party paid $15,000 to "cover lawyer fees and all of the things that were about to happen to me financially because of the fallout” relating to these events. Both Republicans and Democrats told St. Louis Public Radio they were interested in the source of that money.
Al Watkins, the attorney for the ex-husband, earlier refused to answer a question from St. Louis Public Radio about whether anyone other than the ex-husband was paying him.
In a fiery public statement delivered before the report was released, Greitens said the report was nothing but “lies and falsehoods.”
“This is a political witch hunt,” he said. “In just 33 days, a court of law and a jury of my peers will let every person in Missouri know the truth and prove my innocence. In 33 days, this witch hunt will come to an end.”
Richardson, the House speaker, defended the work of the committee.
“This is not a witch hunt and there is no political agenda,” he told reporters at a news conference after the release of the report.
The committee’s Democratic members, Gina Mitten of Richmond Heights and Tommie Pierson Jr. of St. Louis, also defended the process.
“Our committee remains dedicated to its task and will not be deterred by Eric Greitens’ baseless attacks on our witnesses, our integrity or our common sense,” the statement said. “And as we move forward, we remain sympathetic to the victim and the governor’s family for what they are being forced to endure as a result of the governor’s actions and choices. There are victims of physical and sexual assault who will have great difficulty processing the contents of this report, and they should know we support them.”
The governor’s attorneys had pushed hard to delay the release of the report, saying it could potentially taint the jury pool in the criminal case. On March 26, attorneys representing the governor in both the criminal case and separate legal matters asked the seven members to grant an extension so they could “provide the public and your fellow lawmakers with a complete and accurate report that preserves the constitutional rights of every person involved and does not unduly interfere with the governor’s right to a fair trial by an untainted jury.”
On April 4, retired St. Louis Circuit Judge Thomas Frawley wrote in a letter, “In my opinion, release of the committee's report at this time or at any time prior to conclusion of Governor Greitens' criminal trial will seriously jeopardize the right of Governor Greitens, as well as the State, to a fair and impartial jury.
And on April 6, Ed Dowd, one of the attorneys for the defense in the criminal case, contacted to committee chairman Jay Barnes personally, telling him, “we believe that your report will almost certainly contain information that will — in the course of the coming days and weeks — be publicly proven to be incorrect.”
The governor’s legal team has constantly attacked the credibility of the woman and of the investigation. In a documentfiled Monday in the criminal case, his attorneys pointed out that the woman said in a deposition that she may have imagined the photo being taken. Greitens repeated that point on Wednesday.
“This a political witch hunt now based on the testimony of someone who said under oath that they may be remembering this through a dream. We expect that tonight’s report will be full of more false, outlandish and salacious accusations,” he said.
The woman’s attorney and prosecutors in St. Louis said the defense team took the remark out of context, and was cherry-picking from a nine-hour-long deposition.
Greitens also called into question the committee’s investigative process, noting that witnesses were not cross-examined, and that his attorneys, reporters and public were banned from the hearing.
But the report emphasized that committee members asked Greitens several times to provide documents. While the ongoing criminal case meant not everything could be turned over, members noted that “only one of those requests for documents to Greitens involved documents from the current pending case.”
“While disappointing to the Committee, [Greitens’] failure to participate is not held by the Committee as an indication of the truthfulness of the allegations,” the report read. Members said he would have the opportunity to testify at later hearings.
Reaction from Democrats was swift, with several demanding the governor leave office now. Many members of the party had refrained from such a call after the scandal broke in January.
"For the good of the state, Eric Greitens must immediately resign,” said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. “If he doesn’t, it will be the duty of the House of Representatives to restore integrity to the executive branch of state government,” an apparent reference to impeachment proceedings.
"I think we should move on impeachment soon," said state Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City. "What I heard from my Republican colleagues today was 'let's wait until after session.' I disagree with that approach. I think it ought to happen now."
Beatty’s counterpart in the Senate, Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, said her caucus had lost confidence in Greitens’ ability to effectively govern.
“He must resign immediately,” Walsh said. “If he refuses to do the right thing, the Missouri House of Representatives should move forward with the impeachment process.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, also demanded Greitens’ resignation, saying “it is clearly time to put the interests of the people of Missouri first.”
"It's a very alarming report, and it's kind of sickening," said state Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville. "I've reinstated my call for his resignation. And if he doesn't resign then I think the legislature needs to do the right thing and proceed with other courses — which could be impeachment."
Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson declined to address the contents of the report. Parson would become governor if the House impeaches Greitens or he resigns.
“With the recent events that have distracted our great state, I want to say with all sincerity that it is time to unite and put aside our differences,” he said in a statement. “Over the course of several months, it has been a trying time for many people. My heart goes out to the families involved. However, all Missourians must continue to stay focused on the task at hand – moving Missouri forward. We owe it to ourselves and generations to come.”
Greitens has a contentious relationship with the Missouri General Assembly.
Even before the report came out, Republican lawmakers were operating fairly independently from Greitens. Most Republican legislators’ tax proposals incorporated only portions of the governor’s plan, which was the centerpiece of his State of the State speech on Jan. 10 but overshadowed by news breaking of his extramarital affair.
In an unusual move, House leadership on Wednesday canceled sessions that had been scheduled for Thursday and Monday. The Senate is scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified attorney Ed Dowd. He is a member of the criminal defense team.
Warning: The Missouri House committee report below contains content that is sexual in nature.
Warning: The following Missouri House committee deposition transcripts with Gov. Greitens' ex-mistress contains content that is sexual in nature.
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