JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A new political bombshell shakes the state of Missouri. It puts Governor Eric Greitens in more political trouble and potentially more legal peril. In a hastily called news conference, Attorney General Josh Hawley said Tuesday the governor may have committed a felony while fundraising for his gubernatorial campaign.
Hawley said his office has evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the governor regarding his involvement with the charity The Mission Continues. Governor Greitens founded the organization several years ago to help troops coming home from war to readjust to civilian lives.
“Mr. Greitens obtained an electronic donor list created by The Mission Continues for that organization’s internal purposes,” Hawley said. “Mr. Greitens used that list for political fundraising he transmitted that list for political fundraising without permission of The Mission Continues.”
Hawley said the donor list included people who had given more than $1,000 each to the charity. He said the action allegedly involved computer tampering a felony in Missouri.
The attorney general said the state's laws on impeachment mean the governor could be removed from office if he's found to have participated in criminal acts.
“The deadline for the statue of limitations is fast approaching, so a charging decision must be made very soon,” Hawley said.
The Mission Continues released a statement repeating what the organization has said before, that it did not give the donor list to the governor, did not support his election bid, and had nothing to do with any of this. Hawley would not reveal the deadline of the statute of limitations because he said doing that would reveal evidence in the case.
Hawley’s office does not have jurisdiction to charge Greitens. The attorney general obtained a court order Monday to turn all the evidence over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner because the crime allegedly happened in St. Louis. It’s now up to Gardner to decide whether to charge Greitens or not.
The circuit attorney's office announced via Twitter that prosecutors had met with investigators from the AG's office and was reviewing evidence provided to them.
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.
— Circuit Attorney (@stlcao) April 17, 2018
Gov. Eric Greitens released this statement following Hawley's press conference:
"Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law. Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous. 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."
US Senator Claire McCaskill released this statement following the press conference:
"We're glad that Hawley has come out of hiding to acknowledge the existing evidence of criminal behavior of the Governor. However, the sad truth is that this shows gross incompetence on the part of the Attorney General. The evidence in this case has been publicly available since October 2016 -- what excuse could Josh Hawley possibly have for failing to pursue an investigation and allowing this evidence to languish for over a year? The only reason the statute of limitations is now a problem in this case is because Hawley was trying to protect his friend and large donor for as long as possible."
Jim Martin, Greitens' attorney, also released a statement:
“We’ve done a thorough review of this matter and we know that there’s no wrongdoing here. In fact, there’s nothing close to wrongdoing. Eric built “The Mission Continues” from scratch and helped thousands of veterans by doing so. The attorney general held a completely frivolous and inappropriate press conference on a non-issue.”