Trump administration officials inquiring whether Greitens scandal could impact top aide to VP
As embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ legal and political woes deepen, some White House officials are inquiring whether the controversy could also envelop the governor’s former top campaign adviser, Nick Ayers, who is now Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.
Multiple officials in President Donald Trump’s administration have privately put out feelers with Missouri Republican leaders in recent days to gauge whether Ayers would be interviewed as part of the state House committee investigation into Greitens, according to two sources familiar with the conversations.
Ayers signed on with Greitens in 2015, but it is unclear exactly when the two men severed ties. Greitens’ campaign fund has continued to pay the firm Ayers founded, C5 Consulting, into 2018, according to a Missouri Ethics Commission filing. Ayers stepped away from the firm to work in the administration.
“Several people from Washington have reached out and asked if Nick Ayers is going to be subpoenaed,” said one Missouri House source with knowledge the discussions. “To this point he has not been.” But the President’s allies were also informed that a possible subpoena “is very much in play” because the committee’s investigation is ongoing, added a separate source who also confirmed the conversations.
The questions from White House officials were interpreted by those on the receiving end as oriented toward fact-finding, not as an attempt by the administration to influence the state House committee’s work.
Ayers and a spokesperson for Pence declined to comment.
The state House probe, which is running parallel to investigations by Attorney General Josh Hawley and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, made headlines this month with the release of a bombshell report detailing alleged sexual misconduct and assault by the governor against a woman with whom he has admitted having an affair.
Greitens has denied committing any crime and instead called the situation “a personal mistake” from his time prior to taking office.
“As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor. I did not commit a crime,” his statement read.
The House panel has expanded its scope to examine Greitens’ campaign’s acquisition and use of a nonprofit donor list, with plans to release a report on the subject Wednesday, including lengthy transcripts of interviews with witnesses.
Greitens has already been charged by Circuit Attorney Gardner with one felony stemming from the donor list of The Mission Continues, a veterans charity Greitens founded, for allegedly obtaining the list without authorization from the charity.
“I stand by that work. I will have my day in court,” said Greitens in an April statement.
Ayers signed on with Greitens following the transfer of the list, however, meaning any investigatory interest in Ayers would likely be focused on the aftermath, or on other issues.
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney initially opened her probe into Greitens earlier this year based on allegations that he photographed and blackmailed a woman with whom he was having an affair; Greitens has since been indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from that investigation.
Greitens trial is set for May 14.
But there are signs that investigators are continuing to expand their efforts. Hawley’s office confirmed that, earlier this month, they oversaw a deposition of Danny Laub, who steered Greitens’ campaign in its early stages and was later named on a campaign finance disclosure as the source of the donor list. The Circuit Attorney’s office has alleged that it was in fact Greitens who “directed the disclosure” of the list to the campaign.
Laub’s attorney, Sandy Boxerman, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Laub, “did sit for that deposition, was completely truthful and forthcoming and cooperative. What happens beyond this point is in the hands of other people.”
Ayers joined the campaign after Laub and became an essential adviser to Greitens, along with his acolyte Austin Chambers, who managed the campaign. Greitens and Ayers apparently also became personally close, with Ayers at one time counting the governor among his “friends”.