The controversy surrounding Missouri Governor Eric Greitens may have wider ramifications for the 2018 midterm elections.
Greitens, 43, was indicted on Thursday for alleged invasion of privacy related to an affair he had with his former hairdresser in 2015, the New York Times reported. The governor refused to step own, and the scandal has placed a cloud over the US Senate bid of Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley.
The governor, a former Navy SEAL and author who was elected to office in 2016, admitted to the affair last month, but denied claims that he took nude photos of his mistress against her will in order to blackmail her.
The revelation of the affair launched an investigation by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, which ultimately led to Thursday’s indictment by a grand jury for felony invasion of privacy.
State Rep. Robert Cornejo (R-St. Peters) cautioned that lawmakers investigating the matter “don’t want to go on a fishing expedition or a witch hunt.”
According to CBS St. Louis, at least five Republicans and several Democrats in the Missouri General Assembly have called on Greitens to step down, but the governor has thus far refused to resign.
Missouri’s Democratic party has already tied Greitens to Attorney General Hawley, the current front-runner for the GOP nomination in the state’s 2018 Senate race.
On Saturday, a Twitter account for the party noted that the governor donated $50,000 Hawley’s attorney general campaign, and condemned the AG for not returning the money in light of the scandal.
1⃣ @EricGreitens donates $50,000 to @HawleyMO’s AG campaign
2⃣ Hawley declines to investigate allegations of sexual blackmail against Greitens
3⃣ Greitens is indicted for sexual blackmail
4⃣ Hawley doesn’t return Greitens’ donation#MOSen
— Missouri Democrats (@MoDemParty) February 24, 2018
Republicans posted that Attorney Kim Gardner has received over $200,000 in campaign donations from groups affiliated with liberal billionaire George Soros.
Here’s our full statement on the recent news re: Governor Greitens ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/QlsRmlgEiv
— Missouri GOP (@MissouriGOP) February 23, 2018
“Kim Gardner has received more than $200,000 from George Soros groups,” read the Missouri GOP’s statement. “Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job. This law has never been prosecuted in this way and it is safe to say if Eric Greitens wasn’t governor, it wouldn’t have been this time either.
“We have a progressive anti-law enforcement Democrat wanting to single-handedly oust a law-and-order governor. We look forward to a bipartisan committee of legislators elected by people across Missouri to find out what’s really going on – ensuring St. Louis liberals aren’t controlling the future of our state.”
Hawley is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of only two state-wide elected members of her party in Missouri, which President Trump won in 2016 by nearly 20 points.
The Attorney General commented on the Greitens scandal on Friday. Without mentioning the governor by name, Hawley called an indictment “a serious matter,” and trusted that the state House’s investigation would be “thorough and swift.”
A felony indictment by a grand jury is a serious matter. There is no place for party or partisanship. The criminal justice system must be allowed to work. I am confident the House's investigation will be thorough and swift, and will proceed without regard to party.
— AG Josh Hawley (@AGJoshHawley) February 23, 2018
The results of Missouri’s Senate race could prove decisive in swinging the balance of Congress against or in favor of President Trump.
Republicans currently hold a slim 51-49 majority in Congress’ upper chamber.