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Hawley: Greitens Allegedly Misused Donor Data; GOP Leaders Step Up Resignation Calls

File photo by Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has asked the St. Louis circuit attorney to file criminal charges against Gov. Eric Greitens for allegedly illegally obtaining and using for political purposes a fundraising list from a charity he founded.

This post was updated at 7:50 p.m. Tuesday to include Greitens' latest statement. 

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Tuesday that his office has evidence that Gov. Eric Greitens may have committed a felony in obtaining and using a donor list from the nonprofit he founded.

By the end of the night, several top Republican state legislators were calling for Greitens to step down, something the governor tweeted that he would not do.

In a hastily called news conference Tuesday morning, Hawley said his investigation into The Mission Continues, conducted under his authority to monitor compliance with nonprofit laws, uncovered evidence of criminal conduct.

But the attorney general's office lacks jurisdiction to pursue the criminal case, so Hawley said he forwarded the evidence to the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner for potential prosecution. He said he also has also shared the evidence with the special Missouri House committee that's investigating Greitens' conduct and considering possible impeachment proceedings.

Top Republican leaders in state government either renewed their calls for Greitens to resign or added their voices to the mix. The strongest statement came from Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, who said it's "past the point of concerning and alarming" and exhorted his colleagues to "immediately start impeachment proceedings."

And House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr and House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo said in a statement that Greitens "needs to take responsibility for his actions." They said "the time has come for the governor to resign."

Hawley, a Republican, said the governor’s campaign had improperly obtained and used donor information from the nonprofit. Greitens was fined by the Missouri Ethics Commission in 2017 for not reporting that he obtained an email list from the charity during his gubernatorial campaign. Hawley announced his investigation in March.

“Evidence now in our possession would likely support a finding of probable cause that Mr. Greitens obtained an electronic donor list created by The Mission Continues for that organization’s internal purposes. Mr. Greitens, however, used that list for political fundraising,” Hawley said at Tuesday’s news conference.

“He transmitted that list for political fundraising, and he did all of this without the permission of The Mission Continues,” Hawley added. “If proven, these acts could amount to the unauthorized taking and use of property, in this case electronic property. Under Missouri law, this is known as computer tampering. And given the value of the list in question, it is a felony.”

"Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law," Greitens said in a statement, referring to the attorney general by only his first name. "Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous."

Greitens' statement also took aim — as he has in the past -- at Gardner.

"Josh has turned the 'evidence' he claims to have over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner— a liberal prosecutor funded by George Soros who allegedly suborned perjury, falsified documents, and withheld evidence. We will dispense with these false allegations."

Gardner is also prosecuting Greitens for felony invasion of privacy related to his extramarital affair. That trial is scheduled to begin May 14. The judge is scheduled to rule Thursday on a defense motion to dismiss the case for prosecutorial misconduct.

Hawley said he rushed to make this announcement because the statute of limitations on the computer tampering charge was nearing. Asked by multiple times by reporters when the statute of limitations would run out, Hawley would not specify, saying only “It is near.”

Hawley said his office had provided all of its evidence, which includes subpoenas, thousands of page of documents and electronic records, and testimony, to Gardner’s office on Monday.

“Yesterday, prosecutors in the Circuit Attorney’s Office met with members of the Attorney General’s team. The AG’s team provided information they have gathered to us, and we are reviewing the evidence. We can’t discuss any specifics at this time, as the investigation is ongoing,” Gardner’s spokeswoman said in an email to KCUR.

Hawley said he had not discussed this matter with the governor before making Tuesday’s announcement.

Asked whether Tuesday’s action was related to his campaign for the United States Senate, Hawley said he was doing his job.

“And my job is to enforce the laws of Missouri to protect the people of Missouri. And that’ is exactly what I’m going, and I’m going to keep on doing it, no matter how he criticizes me or tries to intimidate me,” Hawley said, seemingly in reference to a statement on Monday by Greitens’ legal team that Hawley should recuse himself from this investigation.

“This office will not be intimidated, and we will not be deterred,” Hawley said. “We will keep on doing our job for the people of Missouri.”

Hawley also reiterated his call for Greitens to resign based on evidence about his affair with a woman contained in last week’s Missouri House committee report. Hawley said it was his opinion that the report contained evidence of impeachable offenses, though the House must make decision.

Brian Ellison is host of KCUR's Statehouse Blend Missouri podcast and reports on Missouri politics and government. Follow him on Twitter @ptsbrian.

Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster. You can follow him on Twitter.

As a host and contributor at KCUR, I seek to create a more informed citizenry and richer community. I want to enlighten and inspire our audience by delivering the information they need with accuracy and urgency, clarifying what’s complicated and teasing out the complexities of what seems simple. I work to craft conversations that reveal realities in our midst and model civil discourse in a divided world. Follow me on Twitter @ptsbrian or email me at brian@kcur.org.
Kyle Palmer is the editor of the Shawnee Mission Post, a digital news outlet serving Northeast Johnson County, Kansas. He previously served as KCUR's news director and morning newscaster.
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