STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

How the heck is Eric Greitens still the governor of Missouri?

Five days ago, a ...

Posted: Apr 17, 2018 8:02 PM
Updated: Apr 17, 2018 8:02 PM

Five days ago, a Missouri state House committee released a troubling report detailing allegations made by a woman that the state's Republican governor, Eric Greitens, had subjected her to non-consensual sex and violence.

It was widely seen as a death knell for the governor's political career. Every prominent Republican politician -- including state Attorney General Josh Hawley, the party's likely 2018 Senate nominee -- called for Greitens to step down. And yet, he remains in office -- fiercely insisting that the accusations of sexual and mental abuse are false.

On Tuesday afternoon, Greitens' outlook darkened even more with the announcement by Hawley that the governor could be charged with a felony for illegally obtaining a fundraising list from a non-profit group he started.

In search of an explanation for how Greitens is still the Show Me State governor, I reached out to St. Louis Public Radio political reporter Jason Rosenbaum. Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.

Cillizza: Last week, the GOP controlled legislature issued a stinging report on the governor's personal conduct. I assumed he would resign. He didn't. What gives?

Rosenbaum: If you go by Greitens' own statement before that report came out, he's not resigning because he feels that report is full of "lies" and a "witch hunt" propelled from his political adversaries.

As mentioned many times, Greitens won election as governor without a strong contingent of Missouri elected officials endorsing his candidacy. I can't read his mind, but I would assume that he feels that he doesn't have any personal or political connections to the people calling for him to step down -- and therefore doesn't take their demands very seriously.

The problem with that mentality is that House Republicans were in charge of putting together that report. In fact, the chairman of the committee that wrote it, Rep. Jay Barnes, was an early Greitens supporter. So even if he's able to remain in office, these latest developments showcase that his support among a legislative bloc that was willing to work with him has evaporated.

Cillizza: The vast majority of prominent Republicans in the state have called on Greitens to resign. Why isn't he bowing to his party's demands?

Rosenbaum: It goes back to how he was elected governor. Most people that end up ascending to that office here get there by making relationships over years with party activists, elected officials and Missouri-based donors. Greitens didn't do that. Much of his political and campaign finance network comes from outside Missouri, such as his 2016 political consultant (and now Mike Pence chief of staff) Nick Ayers.

Since Greitens doesn't feel like he owes some of the more seasoned GOP officials anything, he's less likely to follow their lead. But it's gone beyond just ignoring demands. Greitens has gone out of his way to attack GOP state legislators -- and even GOP US Sen. Roy Blunt. That type of behavior isn't forgotten. And since Greitens' potential replacement, Mike Parson, is a Republican, people in his party have no problem throwing him overboard.

Cillizza: How concerned are Republicans that Greitens could impair their chances of beating Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) this fall or of winning the governorship again in 2020?

Rosenbaum: The biggest impact on whether McCaskill wins or loses is still the national environment. If President Donald Trump's approval ratings sink considerably in Missouri by the time November rolls around, then that may be enough for McCaskill to piece together an urban, suburban and rural coalition needed to win.

If Greitens leaves office well before November, he may end up being a small factor in that election. But Republicans are clearly worried about the political impact of this scandal if Greitens doesn't resign. I talked with Gregg Keller yesterday, a political consultant who supported another Republican candidate in 2016. He said in state Senate races "where we're supposed to be ahead, we're tied. In races where we're supposed to be tied, we're behind."

I will just add, though, that many Missouri legislators from both political parties aren't seeing this situation through a political lens. They feel that the graphic allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the report (which Greitens, again, has strongly denied) are so shocking, that they feel the very perception of the governorship and the state are on the line here. "It is extremely heinous what came out in that report," said Democratic Sen. Gina Walsh. "And I have no faith in that man."

Cillizza: How much of this scandal is inside baseball? Or is this a story that the average Missourian is a) following and b) has a strong opinion on?

Rosenbaum: I don't believe that this scandal is inside baseball. What Greitens is accused of doing strikes at some visceral emotions, both among Missourians and elected officials. I saw legislators last week in tears and genuinely angry. It goes beyond the typical, partisan reaction to a political crisis.

And moreover, Greitens' political woes aren't going away. Just as I was typing my answers to you, Attorney General Josh Hawley said there was evidence that existed to charge Grietens with a felony for illegally obtaining a fundraising list from a charity he founded. That could give lawmakers even more ammunition that they can use to impeach Greitens if he doesn't end up resigning. And ultimately, that drumbeat of negative attention is going to affect how ordinary Missourians feel about Greitens -- if it hasn't already.

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "By June 1, Eric Greitens is _____________. " Now, explain.

Rosenbaum: "By June 1, Eric Greitens is in the process of being impeached by a legislature that his party controls."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 296745

Reported Deaths: 6783
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19731230
Hinds18881393
Harrison16780282
Rankin12787265
Jackson12643229
Lee9703161
Madison9484203
Jones8005147
Forrest7250138
Lauderdale6847227
Lowndes6033140
Lamar590980
Lafayette5747113
Washington5229130
Bolivar4620124
Oktibbeha442194
Panola432396
Pearl River4193132
Warren4138115
Pontotoc410771
Marshall404492
Monroe3993128
Union396474
Neshoba3822170
Lincoln3564104
Hancock350277
Leflore3389119
Sunflower319286
Tate303374
Pike301796
Scott295271
Alcorn292463
Yazoo290865
Itawamba290275
Coahoma282069
Tippah279565
Copiah279259
Simpson276680
Prentiss271158
Wayne254541
Leake253172
Marion252778
Covington249780
Grenada248578
Adams235078
George232445
Newton231252
Winston221979
Jasper213845
Tishomingo212965
Attala206870
Chickasaw201453
Holmes182770
Clay179251
Stone173029
Tallahatchie171439
Clarke169672
Calhoun158528
Smith153033
Yalobusha145536
Greene127933
Walthall124540
Noxubee123131
Montgomery122939
Perry122235
Lawrence120621
Carroll119025
Amite112235
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102731
Tunica99523
Claiborne99129
Benton93924
Humphreys93027
Kemper90423
Quitman77414
Franklin76219
Choctaw69817
Jefferson62827
Wilkinson62427
Sharkey49117
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 498076

Reported Deaths: 10094
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson716711387
Mobile36294737
Madison32616468
Tuscaloosa24340421
Montgomery22739519
Shelby22174218
Baldwin19873289
Lee15039157
Calhoun13832293
Morgan13753254
Etowah13390325
Marshall11448211
Houston10124264
Elmore9483190
Limestone9420138
St. Clair9022227
Cullman8984182
Lauderdale8612214
DeKalb8489175
Talladega7606165
Walker6585259
Jackson6545104
Autauga632492
Blount6236127
Colbert6001121
Coffee5264103
Dale4671107
Russell406933
Franklin399878
Covington3993106
Chilton3898103
Escambia379173
Tallapoosa3622143
Clarke344053
Chambers3431111
Dallas3422142
Pike293373
Marion288695
Lawrence284985
Winston258368
Bibb246160
Geneva240370
Marengo238857
Pickens225457
Barbour213651
Hale212269
Fayette202057
Butler201466
Henry183541
Cherokee178039
Monroe166739
Randolph164840
Washington156836
Macon147745
Crenshaw146255
Clay145954
Cleburne139841
Lamar133733
Lowndes132751
Wilcox122925
Bullock117336
Conecuh107024
Perry106127
Sumter99732
Coosa90224
Greene88532
Choctaw55323
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 54°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 57°
Oxford
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Starkville
Mostly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 54°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather