After the resignation of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday, months of turmoil in Jefferson City might finally be coming to an end. And Republicans such as Attorney General Josh Hawley are eager to shift focus to ousting the state's top Democrat in this year's midterm elections.
On Thursday afternoon, Hawley sat down with KCUR's Up To Date to discuss the historic resignation, his role in prosecuting the governor's alleged misdeeds, and, especially, the record of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The following interview highlights have been edited for length and clarity. The entire interview airs on the June 1 edition of Up To Date. McCaskill will have an opportunity for equal air time in the future.
On the Greitens resignation:
"Well, look, it's the right thing for the state. It's been tough for all the families who are involved in this, and it's been hard for the state, but it's a new day now. I think Gov. Mike Parson is going to be great.
It was a surprise, but I tell you who I think probably was more surprised was Claire McCaskill and (New York Sen.) Chuck Schumer, who have spent millions of dollars trying to politicize the governor's troubles and trying to use them against me. Obviously that was always the wrong thing to do — I mean, politicizing this issue is always the wrong thing to do. It also turned out to be a major strategic miscalculation, and my guess is that she's pretty sad about it."
On claims his office was slow to investigate Greitens' alleged improper use of donor lists from the Mission Continues, a charity organization founded by the governor:
"I was elected with more votes than anybody to be the state's top prosecutor. It's a job that I have done with all the vigor that I have and can.
You know, my office doesn't have jurisdiction over theft. It doesn't have jurisdiction over Missouri Ethics Commission. We have to actually have jurisdiction over something that we can control to support subpoenas.
So on February 27, 2018, there was evidence published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that employees of the Mission Continues had perhaps given the donor list, or were transmitting this donor list, that belonged to the charity to Gov. Greitens. Now we did have jurisdiction in our office. Now we did have something — we had the charity. So we launched an investigation into the charity, and we uncovered evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the governor, and we referred that evidence to the appropriate authorities and that evidence was charged.
Those charges would not have been brought had it not been for our investigation. As soon as we had jurisdiction and authority to do it, we conducted an intesive investigation. You can say whatever you want about me as attorney general, but what you cannot say is that I've been anything other than independent and anything other than tough."
On criticism of his office's investigation into the governor's use of Confide, a message-erasing phone app:
"We didn't have subpoena power. I mean, take a step back and think about the context here. The Democrats will do anything to change the subject from Claire McCaskill's record, and so I guess the criticism of me is that it wasn't enough to investigate and have a felony conviction of a governor of my own party brought against him — to call on him to resign and now he has resigned. I think this is pretty silly on their part but, you know, Claire McCaskill's campaign is kind of unraveling. I mean, I understand why she wants to change the subject.
Something that I've called on the state legislature to do is to give the attorney general subpoena power in the sunshine context. Currently, the Attorney General's office has no power to compel anybody to cooperate with any sunshine law investigation. We were told on the very first day that we opened this investigation, way back in December I think it was, that the governor would not participate in an interview, that they would not make available various staff and so on and so forth.
This is why the Attorney General's office needs authority to subpoena individuals to get them, to compel them to participate and to respond to investigations, and I hope that the legislature will pass it."
On Sen. Claire McCaskill's voting record:
"So here's the thing about Sen. McCaskill and her voting record: She always comes home to the money. When the money comes calling, she goes running, whether that is big pharma, whether that is a lawyers and lobbyists. She is setting new land speed records in this regard.
If you look at her voting record, she's sure as heck not voting with the people of Missouri. People scratch their heads and say, 'My gosh, why won't she vote to confirm textualist conservative judges? Why won't she vote to roll back regulations on farmers? Why don't she vote to secure the border, for instance?' The answer is easy. She votes where her party’s money is. She's a liberal, partisan Democrat who goes running for the money.
We've got a great opportunity now, but we've got to make some changes now in Washington D.C. The middle class in our state and in our country, too, is in a moment of crisis, and I really think it's the defining crisis of our era. Sen. McCaskill is a big part of it. Whether it is open borders, with the flood of illegal immigrants driving down wages, or jobs shipped overseas, or wages just stagnant for all of these years, healthcare costs up through the ceiling, these are things that middle class families simply cannot afford. The middle class way of life, it's falling away and, unless we do something about it, we're going to be in big trouble."
On claims in a recent Politico story that his Senate bid lacks energy:
Well, (the Kansas City Star editorial board) had something to say about that, which I think was the right response. They called that outrageous or wildly unfair and, look, this was just a typical D.C. fake news story planted by Claire McCaskill.
I can't speak for anybody other than myself, but I'll just say this: I am proud of the job I'm doing as Missouri's attorney general. I was elected to be the state's top prosecutor. I'm doing that job. I've done that job.
It's not a race that was in my plans. I hadn't planned to run for United States Senate. I was asked to run. But here's the more important thing: My wife and I decided that it was the right thing to do because it is a critically urgent time for the country. We are facing the collapse of the way of life that has sustained our state and sustained our country, the middle class way of life. We cannot afford six more years of Claire McCaskill."
On Republican tax cuts passed in 2017:
"Those tax cuts provided real middle class tax relief. Making the child tax credit refundable and expanding the child tax credit for instance is a big deal, and we're seeing wages finally begin to grow. We're seeing jobs begin to proliferate. But look, there's a lot more work to be done.
You're not going to get me arguing with the fact that we need more middle class tax relief and we need more measures to get wages growing in this country. We need to expand jobs. We need to bring back jobs from overseas. I think that the president's policies are a good first step in that direction, in terms of bringing those jobs back."
On the Affordable Care Act:
"I would have voted against the Affordable Care Act, which I think is a big driver of the increase in health care premiums. The other thing that really worries me is we have an increasing collusion between big insurance and big government.
We have like — what now? — three or four major insurers in the country. They're doing great under the system of regulations but families can hardly afford it. Doctors are not free to practice medicine. So we have got to make some major, major changes. Sen. McCaskill takes a gob of money from big pharma and the insurance industry, and she votes where the money is.
What we need is a fresh start. We need to break up this alliance of big insurance, in this case, and big government. We need to make those insurance companies compete. They should have to compete for our services. They should have to compete for doctors.
So let's make them compete. There's a lot of things we can do and need to do and the fact that D.C. can't get any of it done, and Claire Mccaskill has voted time and again to make the situation worse, is an indictment. It's a terrible indictment."
On student loan policy and the value of higher education:
"First of all, talk to person after person who is working for a living, and especially folks who don't want to go to a four-year college, who don't want to take on that debt. They would like to get a skill. They would like to have a chance to move into the middle.
(Those opportunities are) not out there. And that's the problem. You shouldn't have to go to an expensive four-year college for that to happen, and you shouldn't have to go to an expensive four-year college to get some respect in this state or in this country. That's how a lot of folks who work for a living, that's how they feel, and rightly so.
These four-year institutions and other institutions have a monopoly right now on these federal (student) loans and these opportunities. Let individuals, let workers take that money and go to an apprenticeship or training program that works for them. These colleges that have taken this money from taxpayers, and then have turned around and taken tuition money from taxpayers again, they ought to be on the hook. If graduates can't get jobs, they should help repay the loans."
Steve Kraske's entire interview with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley airs on the June 1 edition of Up To Date.