Missouri’s House Speaker said he doesn’t want to constrain the committee he created to investigate allegations against the state’s governor.
“This committee’s going to have the time it needs to finish its work,” Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) said to reporters on Thursday after the House adjourned for the week.
A St. Louis grand jury in February indicted Governor Eric Greitens (R) for felony invasion of privacy. He is accused of taking, without consent, an intimate photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015. A circuit judge in St. Louis today declined Greitens’ request to dismiss that case.
Earlier this week Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) said he has enough evidence for a felony charge against Greitens for violating campaign laws. Hawley said Greitens took a list of those who donated to his charity for military veterans, The Mission Continues, and transferred it to his political campaign to use in fundraising efforts.
The developments concerning Greitens this week have some calling for the House to take action concerning him now, but Richardson said the chamber will stick to the plan he announced last week. Preparations are continuing for the House to call itself into special session in case more time is needed for its members to review the recommendations of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, when those recommendations are ready.
“The committee didn’t believe, at that point in time, that they would be able to finish their work before the end of session. I think they still believe that they need additional time to do that work, which is why we have begun the process of calling ourselves into a special session,” said Richardson. “My point last week and my point this week is, there’s not going to be an artificial timeline or a deadline here. We’re going to let the committee work, we’re going to let them work as thoroughly as they need to, and when they come back with recommendations we’ll be ready to take them up.”
As for the decision today by Judge Rex Burlison to allow the invasion of privacy case against Greitens to continue, Richardson said it has no bearing on what the House does and it never would have.
“The Missouri legislature is a separate and co-equal branch of government and no matter how that decision had gone today, the House and the Senate would continue to go through our process,” said Richardson. “Our role and responsibilities here are different than the role of the court in the City of St. Louis so it doesn’t impact it at all.”
Richardson and other members of House Republican leadership said this week they believe Greitens should resign. The President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate, Ron Richard (R), said this week he also believes Greitens should resign, and if he does not, Richard believes he should be impeached and that effort should begin now.
Richardson said he believes he and the Senate president remain committed to the same process.
“He and I have been in constant contact, and we both want the House committee and the legislature to execute a thorough and fair process, and a process that makes sure that the members of the general assembly – who are going to be tasked with deciding some of those recommendations – that they have the most information that they need in front of them to make a good decision,” Richardson said.
The leader of the House Democrats, Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City), said she thinks Speaker Richardson is handling the situation with caution, but she is anxious to see the chamber take further action regarding Greitens.
“From my perspective I think I have seen enough [to vote on impeachment now]. This is a cloud over our state. It’s embarrassing, and we need to be moving forward to resolve this sooner than later,” said McCann Beatty.
The investigative committee has continued to meet, and has hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.