Missouri’s embattled Republican governor suddenly resigned Tuesday afternoon, saying that while he did nothing wrong, he could not allow “the forces opposed to us” to damage his family.
Gov. Eric Greitens, mired in a scandal over an extramarital affair and allegations of campaign-finance violations, announced his resignation, effective Friday, at a hastily called news conference as an impeachment effort in the Legislature gained momentum.
The governor has acknowledged having an affair with his hairdresser. “I’m not perfect,” he said Tuesday. “But I’ve not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment.”
“Millions of dollars of mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends, legal harassment of colleagues, friends and campaign workers, and it’s clear that for the forces that oppose us, there’s no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love,” he said.
The Missouri Legislature began a special session earlier this month to consider impeachment and a House panel issued a subpoena last week ordering the governor to testify next Monday.
Lt. Gov. Michael L. Parson, also a Republican, will take the state’s reins at 5 p.m. Friday.
Missouri’s Republican-dominated establishment had turned against Mr. Greitens before Tuesday’s announcement, saying he needed to resign for the good of the state.
Attorney General Josh Hawley is looking to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill this fall and wouldn’t want the albatross of a Republican governor’s sex scandal dominating the news during the year of #MeToo.
Republican reaction Tuesday in the state echoed Mr. Hawley’s comments that the governor had “done the right thing.”
The Legislature’s three top Republicans — House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Senate Majority Leader Rob Vescovo — said in a joint statement that public servants must put the people’s interests first and that the governor’s decision “honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward.”
Added Sen. Roy Blunt: “the governor made the best decision for his family and the state. I look forward to Gov. Parson’s leadership and will do everything I can to be helpful.”
Earlier Tuesday, a judge had ordered a pro-Greitens political group to turn over to the Legislature documents that could show banned coordination between Mr. Greitens, his campaign committee and the group, A New Missouri.
As for the possibility of criminal charges over the extramarital affair, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said after the resignation that a “fair and just resolution” had been reached, though details would not be released until Wednesday.
Charges of invasion of privacy against the governor were withdrawn earlier this month amid concerns that Ms. Gardner had a conflict of interest in the case. Ms. Gardner had said at the time that she would consider handing the case over to a special prosecutor.
Prosecutors had accused Mr. Greitens of invasion of privacy based on the woman’s account that he surreptitiously took a cellphone photo of her while she was bound and blindfolded and told her that it’d be released if she ever talked.
The governor has denied the allegation from the start and continued to do so Tuesday.
“People of good faith know that I am not perfect,” Mr. Greitens said Tuesday. “I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.”
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