Jefferson City, Missouri (CNN)FBI agents have been questioning Missouri lawmakers about possible coercive tactics by associates of Gov. Eric Greitens, as the state legislature is set to consider impeaching the embattled governor.
FBI agents asking Missouri lawmakers about tactics by Greitens associates
Two state Republican lawmakers told CNN they were contacted and interviewed in recent weeks by FBI agents, who asked whether they were aware of any threats and bribes made on behalf of the governor regarding an impeachment vote.
One of the lawmakers, who met with an agent in Jefferson City, said they told the FBI they were not directly aware of any such incidents. The second lawmaker declined to discuss their responses to FBI questioning.
The second lawmaker also said the FBI's questioning suggested investigators' interest is not limited solely to possible threats and bribes, although that was one focus.
Spokespersons for the governor and the FBI did not comment.
The FBI interest in the Missouri statehouse comes as the governor and his allies have stepped up their lobbying efforts in a bid to save his political career, with aggressive outreach to state lawmakers who might vote on his impeachment.
Missouri House lawmakers convened a special session of the legislature Friday evening to consider impeaching the governor, following an investigation into Greitens' conduct by a state House committee. The impeachment process will begin this week with public committee hearings, with the House expected to vote within a month.
Separately, Greitens faces a felony charge of computer tampering stemming from his campaign's use of a nonprofit donor list. Another felony charge of invasion a privacy for a compromising photo he allegedly took of a woman with whom he was having an affair was dropped last week as Greitens was set to begin trial, although prosecutors have said they hope to refile the charge.
The governor has continued to deny any wrongdoing, although he has admitted to engaging in an extramarital affair; and he has characterized the investigations into his conduct as "political witch hunts."
Now Greitens is aiming to bring a majority of state House lawmakers over to his side, using what multiple lawmakers have characterized as an aggressive carrot-and-stick approach of political rewards for those who back him, while cutting off those who do not. One Missouri House Republican described the public and private pressure from Greitens' team as "intimidating," adding, "but I think you have a strong group of people in our caucus."
Recently, select Republicans have been invited to meet in small groups with the governor and his associates, according to multiple sources who were informed of the meetings by their colleagues but did not participate in them.
A small faction of pro-Greitens lawmakers, some of whom have jokingly labeled themselves "The Resistance," according to one senior lawmaker, have also approached their colleagues on Greitens' behalf -- and the governor has also included his perceived allies in meetings. Last week, some of those lawmakers convened in the governor's office over coffee with Greitens and some of his attorneys.
One of the attendees, GOP Rep. Bill White, who supports the governor, said it was natural that he would discuss possible impeachment with his colleagues - and downplayed the idea of an organized effort to boost Greitens.
"There's always going to be discussions, but it's not like a military operation," White said. "When you work with people, you're going to talk."
An impeachment vote in the Missouri House would require support from a simple majority of lawmakers to advance to the Senate, where lawmakers would name a panel of judges to carry out the governor's impeachment trial.