Committee extends, expands Greitens investigation, leaving some worried about time

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JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives committee tasked with investigating Gov. Eric Greitens will take a deeper look into possible campaign finance violations when it reconvenes Tuesday.

Transcripts released Wednesday with the committee's first report show some committee members are concerned the ongoing investigation could keep them from their lawmaking duties as the end of the legislative session approaches.

The committee's initial task involved investigating Greitens' encounters with his hairdresser in 2015, which led to allegations that he sexually and physically abused her. The transcripts also detail how the woman testified that her privacy repeatedly was violated leading up to news reports that publicized her ordeal.

The committee unanimously voted to extend its duration until May 18, the last day of the legislative session, so it can continue to investigate possible campaign finance violations around The Mission Continues, a charity Greitens ran before he was elected governor that helps returning veterans adjust to civilian life. The committee will release a separate report with its findings from that portion of the investigation.

Attorney General Josh Hawley and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner also are investigating Greitens for allegations his campaign used a list of donors to The Mission Continues for his 2016 bid for governor, according to Associated Press reports.

Committee chair Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said in the transcripts the committee still has emails and testimony to review before releasing a report.

Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, said it's not fair to the people who will read the report to give "willy-nilly, knee-jerk reactions" to evidence and testimony the committee has not had enough time to review.

Each committee member voted to split the report in two, but Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, expressed concern the committee could take representatives away from their legislative duties as the legislature approaches the end of its session. She said it will be a problem when members of the committee are trying to prepare for and hear testimony and review documents and they are needed on the House floor.

"It's going to be a bigger problem as we start getting — as we go from waist deep to shoulder deep in bills that are going to — you know, that have the potential to end up on the governor's desk," Mitten said.

She said she hoped the committee could explore hiring assistants to help with its work. Rep. Tommie Pierson Jr., D-St. Louis, agreed, saying that as the investigation moves more into evidence review it will require some expertise in certain areas.

The Recording

The woman described how her privacy repeatedly was ignored leading up to the news reports that publicized her ordeal more than two years after the encounters, according to her testimony to the House committee.

The committee debated the credibility of the woman's testimony, but in its report said it found her to be an "overall credible witness." There was no debate over the ex-husband's credibility.

"Absolutely not (credible)," said Rep. Shawn Rhoads, R-West Plains. The rest of the committee agreed.

The January report from KMOV that brought the sexual abuse allegations to light was based on a secret recording made by the ex-husband and an interview with the station. While he confirmed to the committee he did make the recording and give the interview, the ex-husband denied leaking the tape.

He told the committee he was trying to save his marriage when he secretly recorded his then-wife describing her encounter with Greitens. He said he wanted to be able to compare what she told him later to the initial conversation.

Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, asked him, "If your intent is to save your relationship and be in a good relationship with the mother of your children, why were you trying to catch discrepancies in what she told you?"

"Because there were phone calls and texts that were being hidden from me," the ex-husband said. "I want to have a relationship that's always based on honesty and truth."

The ex-husband knew there were phone calls "being hidden from" him because he repeatedly checked his then-wife's phone, Facebook and anything else he could access, the woman told the committee.

The ex-husband denied he released the recording. He told the committee he went to a lawyer, Albert Watkins, in September 2016, because he was afraid of what Greitens would do to him.

"So the first thing I told (Watkins) was, 'I need a lawyer, somebody in the law to have this recording in case I turn up dead so you guys know who to go after,'" the ex-husband said.

He said he also told Watkins, who has been involved in several high-profile cases, he wanted everything to be kept quiet. Asked why he went on the record with KMOV if he didn't want the story to come out, he said he was afraid of how the press would spin it.

The woman and two of her friends who testified to the committee said the ex-husband was anything but quiet, telling friends, family and "anybody who would listen."

One friend said reporters from Politico, The New York Times and CNN, among others, called her for comment before the KMOV report. When asked how those reporters got her full name and cell phone number, the friend said she didn't know, but that the ex-husband had both pieces of information.

"It was kind of hung over her head that he had this information," the friend said.

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, horvitm@missouri.edu.

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