JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Governor Eric Greitens announced his resignation Tuesday afternoon amid a pair of scandals involving separate allegations of invasion of privacy and campaign finance violations. The resignation will be effective Friday, June 1.
The governor held a news conference from his office at the Missouri Capitol at 4:25 p.m. Greitens said personal and political attacks on friends, family, and colleagues affected his decision to step down.
"I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history," Greitens said.
"We must as we have always done, work to improve the lives of those around us. This is not the end of our fight. The time has come to tend to those who are wounded. For the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high."
The governor did not take any questions from the assembled media.
A special Missouri House committee had spent the last two weeks investigating Greitens’ fundraising methods and whether he used a donor list from The Mission Continues charity to raise cash for his gubernatorial campaign. The committee had been weighing the possibility of impeaching the governor.
The news conference came the same day a Cole County circuit judge ordered a secret group supporting the governor, A New Missouri, turn over all correspondence between Greitens, his campaign, and the organization. The judge’s order also covers all documentation on communications and expenditures by A New Missouri.
Greitens' resignation should not affect any criminal matters involving the governor. However, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who initially filed the invasion of privacy charges against Greitens in February, said she's reached a "fair and just resolution" on the case, but declined to offer specifics. Gardner said she'd provide more information on the matter Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Gardner's office dropped its invasion of privacy case against Greitens so a different prosecutor could try the case.
Greitens, 44, was charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking and transmitting a photo of a woman in a compromising position without her permission in March 2015. The governor admitted to engaging in an affair with his former hairdresser prior to running for office.
On the day the case was dismissed, Greitens addressed the media outside the St. Louis Civil Courthouse, denouncing the "false charges" levied against him. The governor described the dismissal as a "great victory."
Greitens will be succeeded by Lt. Gov Mike Parson, who was working on his farm and summoned to the capital Tuesday. Parson stands in contrast to the outgoing chief executive in legislative experience. Whereas Greitens' run for governor was his first foray into politics, Parson has worked in the public eye for decades, serving 12 years as the sheriff of Polk County before being elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2004. Parson served two terms as a State Senator from 2011 to 2017, when he became lieutenant governor.
Greitens is not the first Missouri governor to resign.
Governor Daniel Dunklin stepped down in September 1836, three months before his scheduled leave, after being appointed Surveyor General of Missouri and Illinois by President Andrew Jackson. In February 1857, Governor Trusten Park resigned nearly two months after being sworn in so he could accept a position in the US Senate.
The reaction to Greitens' announcement was swift.
The Missouri Republican leadership—House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo—issued the following statement after Greitens’ announcement:
“We believe the Governor has put the best interest of Missourians first today by choosing to resign. The past few months have been difficult for everyone involved, including the Governor and his family. This is a serious and solemn occasion that reminds us that our state and our duty are bigger than any one person or party.
"The House stands ready to help ensure a smooth transition of power to Governor Parson. The hallmark of democracy is that our public service is temporary. Missouri has been blessed with an unbroken line of men and women in public service who have worked to make our state better, and the work of the many dedicated public servants, who work tirelessly for the people of Missouri, will continue.
"The responsibility the House undertook with its investigation is not a path any of us would have chosen, but it is one we were obligated to pursue in an effort to do what is best for our state. We want to thank the members of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight for the serious and professional manner in which they went about their task. We also want to thank the staff for the countless hours and sacrifices they made.
"As public servants, our solemn duty is to put the best interests of the people of this great state first in every decision we make. The Governor’s decision today honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward toward a better tomorrow.”
Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri, 3rd District) said the scandals proved too much of a distraction for Greitens.
“I have been disturbed by the allegations surrounding Governor Greitens over the past few months. This has been a distraction for our entire state and undermined his ability to lead. I am hopeful we can quickly put this behind us and Missouri can move forward under new leadership.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) said Greitens' term in office proves the governor's office "is no place for beginners."
“The brief and deeply troubled term of Eric Greitens is a case study for why Missouri's highest elected office is no place for beginners. Gov. Mike Parson possesses the integrity his predecessor lacked, and House Democrats will offer him whatever assistance we can as he begins the difficult task of restoring credibility to state government.”
Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway said corruption grew more rampant with Greitens in office and lamented the state's soured reputation.
"Corruption in state government became worse than ever under Eric Greitens. That corruption must be cleaned up, and our state's reputation must be restored. This can only happen if leaders put the needs of Missourians ahead of themselves."
State Senator Gina Walsh echoed Galloway's sentiment on corruption.
“Innocent people don’t resign and criminals don’t get let off the hook simply because they cut and run. Missourians deserve to know what laws were broken, what lies were told, and how deep the corruption went."
Other elected leaders praised Greitens for stepping down while pledging to work with the next governor. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who had previously butted heads with Greitens over the campaign finance investigation, said the governor did the right thing.
“Governor Greitens has done the right thing today. I wish incoming Governor Mike Parson well and stand ready to assist him in his transition. This Office’s work for the people of Missouri goes forward.”
US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) kept her remarks brief:
"I wish Lt. Governor Parson the best. I look forward to working with him."
US Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) said Greitens did the right thing for his family and the state and pledged to work with the incoming governor:
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.
— Senator Roy Blunt (@RoyBlunt) May 29, 2018
Meanwhile, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson thanked the governor for his service to the state:
I thank the governor for his service. I know this was a hard decision. My hope is that we get back to working for the people and doing the business of the state.
— Mayor Lyda Krewson (@LydaKrewson) May 29, 2018
And Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt asked for the citizens of Missouri to unite behind the next governor and "work toward a better future."
“Now is the time for the people of Missouri to come together and work toward a better future for our state. My focus is on helping to ensure a smooth transition of power so that state government can continue to serve Missourians without interruption. To that end, my office will be actively working with partners across state agencies and departments to help facilitate the transition process.”