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Missouri lawmakers set to call special session on impeaching governor

Missouri House and Senate leaders announced Thursday night that they have gathered enough support from lawmakers to call the state legislature into a special session for impeachment proceedings against Gov. Eric Greitens.

The announcement follows a series of dire developments for Greitens, a former Republican rising star, including two felony charges: one stemming from a photo he allegedly took of a woman with whom he had an affair and another relating to his campaign’s alleged procurement of a nonprofit donor list without the charity’s knowledge.

But the decision by state lawmakers to consider impeaching the governor adds a new layer to Greitens’ woes given that the Statehouse is firmly controlled by his own party.

“This path is not the one that I would have chosen for Missourians or my colleagues,” said Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Republican. “I have hoped from the beginning of this process that the committee would find no wrongdoing so we could bring this issue to a close. … Unfortunately, this is where the facts led.”

“We will not avoid doing what is right just because it is hard, just because it is the path we hoped not to travel,” Richardson added.

The governor now faces three investigations into his conduct, by state Attorney General Josh Hawley, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and a Missouri House committee led by Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican.

That House committee this week released its second report examining Greitens’ conduct, divulging new details behind his campaign’s use of a donor list he took from The Mission Continues, a veterans charity he founded. The report included testimony by a former campaign aide to Greitens alleging that the campaign filed a false report regarding the donor list.

The first House committee report focused on the allegations that sparked the controversy now enveloping Greitens: that he photographed a woman with whom he had an affair while she was bound and blindfolded, and blackmailed her with those photos.

Greitens has sought to frame these investigations as political witch hunts. But a roster of Missouri Republican leaders have recently called for the governor to resign, including Hawley, Richardson and US Rep. Ann Wagner. Meanwhile, few Republicans have rushed to Greitens’ defense.

The issue has become a lightning rod in the hotly contested race for the US Senate in Missouri, with Hawley challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill for the seat. Democratic attacks have sought to frame Hawley as “part of the problem in Jefferson City.”

And the issue is not likely to fade anytime soon.

Greitens’ trial for his first felony charge is set to begin May 14, before the start of a special session in the Statehouse. The regular session of the Legislature is set to end May 18.

To move forward with impeachment, the Missouri House would vote first, requiring a simple majority. The process would then move to the Senate, where state lawmakers would name a panel of seven jurists to try the impeachment. Those judges would ultimately decide whether to convict Greitens. A Missouri governor has not previously been impeached.