Greitens Blasts 'Political Witch Hunt' Just Before Impeachment Report Drops

Governor Eric Greitens at a 2017 press conference. - DOYLE MURPHY
Governor Eric Greitens at a 2017 press conference.
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens isn't waiting for the House of Representatives' impeachment report to drop before he responds to it. Instead, Greitens forcefully denounced the report as a "political witch hunt" just one hour before its release.

Facing reporters in his office in Jefferson City, but refusing to take any questions, the Republican compared the ordeal he's facing to "the witch hunts in Washington, D.C." and urged citizens to wait until his criminal trial, set to begin May 14, before passing judgment.

"In 33 days this will all come to an end, because in the United States of America, you get your day in court," Greitens says.

See also: 8 Disturbing Revelations from the House Committee Report on Eric Greitens

The governor also relied on the much-publicized snippet from the deposition of his former lover in which she said she might have been remembering one possible detail "through a dream." Greitens' lawyers have argued that the woman's uncertainty invalidates the case, a point he made sneeringly during his remarks.

"Let's call this what it is, a political witch hunt now based on the testimony of someone who said under oath that they may be remembering this through a dream," he said. "We expected tonight's report will be full of more false, salacious accusations."

Yet just hours before the judge issued a gag order in the case, the woman's attorney, Scott Simpson, spoke forcefully to the RFT about what he characterized as an unfair "smear" by Greitens' defense team.

Simpson says his client's response came at the end of a nine-hour deposition when attorneys asked her specifically if she'd seen a phone or camera before Greitens applied the blindfold. Because she believed she had, but wasn't absolutely certain, she wasn't willing to testify as such under oath. He says the reference to possibly "remembering it through a dream" was almost a "throwaway line" — along the lines of, "I don't know, for all I know I dreamt it."

Simpson says the woman has absolutely no doubt that Greitens ripped off her clothes, took her photo and threatened to disseminate it widely if she told others about their affair. That is believed to be reflected in the report that's set for release at 5 p.m. tonight.

Here are some key excerpts from the governor's remarks just before its release:
Later today a report will make accusations about my person. We fully expect that the report being released tonight will include lies and falsehoods.

I want to say again what I have said from the beginning. This is a political witch hunt. In just 33 days a court of law and a jury of my peers will let every person in Missouri learn the truth and prove my innocence. In 33 days, this witch hunt will come to an end.

Over three years ago I made a personal mistake. I engaged in a consensual relationship with a woman who was not my wife.

That is a mistake that I regret every day. With the help of friends and loved ones and prayer, my family moved forward. This was a private mistake that has nothing to do with governance.

[In compiling the report], no witnesses were cross examined, no one representing me were allowed in the room, and no members of the press or the public were allowed in the room. If the committee had waited 33 days, they would have received a full set of facts. Instead they were allowed to publicize an incomplete document...

This matter is being tried in a court of law, and the court has a procedure in place to make sure that people are telling the truth. But the people who were interviewed by the committee face no consequences for telling lies.

Soon after this story broke, for example, the people who are attacking me now falsely claimed that I slapped a woman while my wife was giving birth. It was absolutely untrue and slanderous and incredibly hurtful. It has also been 100 percent disproven.

I fully expect that they will come up with new lies and new accusations. but the people of Missouri see through this and they know far better to trust one-sided tabloid trash gossip that was produced in a secret room.

It is an honor to work for the people of Missouri. ... I will continue to serve the people of Missouri as their governor and to work for them every day. And they know, they need to know that fake charges and falsehoods aren't going to stop us. This is nothing new. .... This is exactly like what's happening with the witch hunts in Washington, D.C., smearing, lying and attacking people who want to change how things are are done. It is wrong is Washington and it's wrong in Missouri.

People see how this works, they launch attacks, they let accusations fly, and then some politicians and irresponsible members of the media pile on. I fully expect that desperate people and some politicians will bring more phony charges and make more false accusations.

Here's the good news. In 33 days this will all come to an end, because in the United States of America, you get your day in court.

Update 7:15 pm:

The release of a the bombshell House of Representatives' impeachment report has sparked immediate outrage — not only at the range of Greitens' allegedly non-consensual behavior toward his ex-mistress, but at his defiant comments before the report's release.

In a press conference this evening, House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) directly rebuked Greitens' statements.

"Let me be very clear about this, this is not a witch hunt and the committee had no political agenda," Richardson said. He noted that the committee had repeatedly reached out to the governor to testify to his version of the events, and added, "that invitation remains open."

Regarding the report itself, Richardson said the testimony "is beyond disturbing."

During a question-and-answer session, a reporter asked Richardson to comment on Greitens' characterization of the committee's report as "one-sided tabloid trash."

Richardson responded with full-throated confidence in the committee. He said, "I stand by the committee's report; this was a committee report prepared by some of the most respected members of the general assembly, who I will note did not make value judgments about the conduct, they simply looked and heard the testimony, did their best job to collect that testimony and made judgments about what they thought of witness credibility. And so I think to the extent that the report is characterized as something other than that, I completely disagree. "

Greitens' criminal trial is scheduled to begin in St. Louis May 14. He faces one felony count of invasion of privacy, with prosecutors alleging that he took a photo of his hairdresser while partially nude in a manner that allows access to that image via a computer.

The circuit attorney's office opened the investigation after a KMOV report relying on a recording provided by the woman's ex-husband. After Greitens' indictment in late February, the House then commenced its impeachment investigation.

The Missouri House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, as is the Senate. Greitens, too, is a Republican.

Danny Wicentowski contributed to this story

See also: 8 Disturbing Revelations from the House Committee Report on Eric Greitens
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About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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