Indicted Missouri Governor Resists Pressure to Resign

A booking photo provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department showed Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri.

Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri, who is charged with invasion of privacy in connection with an extramarital affair, faced a revolt by week’s end from many fellow Republicans who demanded that he resign and prepared to take steps that could lead to impeachment.

Mr. Greitens, just over a year into his first term, showed no sign of stepping down after his arrest on Thursday, but pressure was mounting and the implications were being felt beyond Missouri.

On Friday, officials from the Republican Governors Association announced that Mr. Greitens was giving up a leadership position with the group. Mr. Greitens abruptly canceled a weekend trip to a meeting of governors in the Washington, D.C. area, where he had planned to visit the Pentagon and give a speech about veterans issues. And Missouri Republicans worried aloud that the scandal would hurt their party’s chances this fall in the battle to defeat Claire McCaskill, a Democrat whose United States Senate seat is seen as one of the most contested in the nation.

Around the state on Friday, lawmakers from both parties urged Mr. Greitens to quit and lamented what they said was a lurid, time-consuming distraction from the business of governing Missouri.

“This stuff is going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s going to get really, really, really bad,” said State Representative Nate Walker, a Republican who was once a supporter of Mr. Greitens but now says he should resign.

With his police booking photo plastered across the front pages of Missouri newspapers on Friday, Mr. Greitens sought to portray the indictment as a politically motivated miscarriage of justice orchestrated by Kimberly M. Gardner, the Democratic prosecutor in St. Louis who brought the case before a grand jury. A contingent of allies of Mr. Greitens in the State Republican Party remained supportive on Friday, or stayed silent on the matter.

“Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job,” said Sam Cooper, the executive director of the State Republican Party. “We have a progressive anti-law enforcement Democrat wanting to single-handedly oust a law-and-order governor.”

Mr. Greitens, a first-time politician, had clashed with Republican lawmakers since taking office in January 2017. Mr. Greitens, a married father of two thought to have ambitions for higher office, admitted last month that he had an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected. But the governor has repeatedly denied reports that he took a compromising photo of the woman without permission and blackmailed her.

The felony indictment handed up Thursday by a St. Louis grand jury accused Mr. Greitens, 43, of photographing a nude or partially nude person in 2015 without consent, a charge that carries up to four years in prison if he is convicted. The governor’s lawyers said that he violated no laws and that they were seeking to have the case dismissed.

But Missouri lawmakers could begin deciding whether to impeach Mr. Greitens even before he appears in court, on March 16, in the criminal case. Lawmakers are expected to file resolutions asking for an investigation of the invasion of privacy allegations as early as Monday, when they return to Jefferson City, the capital. Such resolutions are required to start an impeachment process under Missouri law.

Credit...St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press

State Senator Caleb Rowden, a Republican, wrote that he would urge his colleagues “to take all necessary actions to remove the governor from office” if Mr. Greitens refuses to resign. Josh Hawley, the state attorney general who is seeking the Republican nomination for Ms. McCaskill’s seat, called the indictment “a serious matter” and said “the criminal justice system must be allowed to work.” And Kathie Conway, a state representative, said she would prefer that the governor step aside rather than risk impeachment.

“It’s going to do nothing but be hurtful to him, to his wife, to those close to him,” said Ms. Conway, a Republican from suburban St. Louis. “It’s just a battle that I just don’t want to be in the middle of.”

Todd Richardson, the Republican speaker of the House, indicated that if Mr. Greitens remained in office, he would support an investigation of the governor — a move that could lead to impeachment.

If lawmakers start an investigation, a committee would decide whether to present articles of impeachment to the full House. If a majority of House members voted to impeach, the State Senate would select a special commission of judges to try the case.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who previously served as a sheriff and a state legislator, would become governor if Mr. Greitens left office.

National Republicans gave little indication that they were taking a stand on Mr. Greitens’s case. But if lawmakers in Jefferson City move forward with impeachment, Republicans could be faced with months of headlines about a sex scandal in a year when they hope to maintain their large majorities in the Missouri General Assembly and to unseat Ms. McCaskill.

“I think that’s a real concern,” said Ms. Conway, the legislator. “This is a fact: We have a Republican governor who’s been indicted. We have a Senate seat that’s up that’s a very important seat to the party nationally.”

State Representative Galen Higdon, a Republican, said he did not yet know whether the governor’s claims of a politically biased prosecution had merit. Mr. Higdon said he supported a legislative investigation of the governor’s conduct, but was not yet calling on him to resign.

You “don’t want a knee-jerk reaction to something like this,” Mr. Higdon said. “You want to do your due diligence and take your time and figure out what’s the best option.”

Others came to the defense of Ms. Gardner and noted that grand jurors, not the prosecutor herself, made the decision to indict the governor.

“I don’t think this is a witch hunt by any means,” said Mr. Walker, the Republican lawmaker. “I think we’ve got a governor who is corrupt or has done things that are illegal. And if you get a felony indictment against you, that’s pretty serious.”

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