On Wednesday, the Republican governor of Missouri asked for a temporary restraining order against the Republican attorney general of Missouri, who is also the leading candidate to represent the GOP against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in the fall.
The governor, Eric Greitens, made the move to keep the AG, Josh Hawley, from pursuing an investigation into the possibility that he broke the law when he used a fundraising list from a non-profit to collect funds for his political campaigns.
All of that mishigas comes just a week after a Republican-led committee in the state legislature published a report containing allegations that included non-consensual sex between the governor and a woman he met in 2015.
Among the allegations from the woman, who testified under oath, was that Greitens blindfolded her, stripped her naked and took a picture of her as a means of blackmail and that he coerced her into performing oral sex while she was sobbing uncontrollably. In the state legislative report, the committee made clear that they believed the woman was a credible witness.
Greitens has acknowledged the affair but said any allegations of non-consensual sex, blackmail or violence are simply false. He has insisted that calls for his resignation are nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.
“In three weeks, this matter will go to a court of law — where it belongs and where the facts will prove my innocence,” Greitens tweeted earlier this week. “Until then, I will do what the people of Missouri sent me here to do: to serve them and work hard on their behalf.”
On Thursday, Greitens faced a legal setback when the judge overseeing the invasion of privacy case brought against him by the woman declined to dismiss it – as the governor’s lawyers had hoped. That ruling means the trial will go forward on May 14.
Lots of prominent Republicans in the state aren’t waiting until the trial to render their judgment on Greitens. Hawley, a prized Senate recruit in a closely watched race against McCaskill, was among the first Republicans to break ranks and call for Greitens’ resignation. Over the past few days, a who’s who of Missouri Republicans have followed suit, including the top-ranking Republicans in the state House and Senate as well as Rep. Ann Wagner.
And behind the scenes, Republicans are growing increasingly worried that the longer Greitens stays in office, the bigger problem he could pose to the party’s chances of beating McCaskill in 2018 or holding the governor’s mansion in 2020.
“Republicans are clearly worried about the political impact of this scandal if Greitens doesn’t resign,” said St. Louis Public Radio politics reporter Jason Rosenbaum earlier this week. “I talked with Gregg Keller yesterday, a political consultant who supported another Republican candidate in 2016. He said in state Senate races where we’re supposed to be ahead, we’re tied. In races where we’re supposed to be tied, we’re behind.”
The Greitens scandal comes even as the memories of Todd Akin – the 2012 Senate nominee who infamously said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because their bodies won’t allow it – appeared to have finally faded. But, the Greitens debacle is now in its fourth month – he admitted to the affair back in January – and appears to be picking up steam rather than beginning to slow down.
It’s another black eye for a state party that should be celebrating its victories. Republicans now hold the governor’s mansion, overwhelming majorities in the state legislature and six of eight US House seats. President Donald Trump won the state by 19 points in 2016. Hawley is seen as an even-money bet to take the Senate seat, a victory that would give Republicans both Missouri seats in that chamber as well.
Greitens’ behavior – and his unwillingness to move off the political stage with all due haste – badly complicates what should be a banner year for Missouri Republicans. The longer he stays, the more damage he will do. And he doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere just yet.