JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has been subpoenaed to testify before a legislative panel weighing whether to try to impeach and remove him from office over allegations of sexual misconduct and political fundraising violations, the committee announced Friday.
The subpoena to testify June 4 comes amid mounting tensions between the governor’s legal team and the special House committee that has been investigating allegations against him since March but is now facing a mid-June deadline for the House to act on any impeachment recommendation.
An attorney representing Greitens said she didn’t know whether he would comply with the subpoena.
The legislative panel “has endeavored to find out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” chairman Rep. Jay Barnes said. But, he added, “we need documents, not stonewalling. …We need Mr. Greitens to appear and testify under oath before this committee.”
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Greitens has so far declined to do so, though his attorneys have indicated he could after his criminal cases are resolved. If Greitens chooses to testify now, it could create additional risk for a criminal trial. But if he refuses to testify, that too could carry political peril.
“It’s always been my observance that those that don’t have anything to hide are more than willing to speak with you. Those that do have something to hide are very reluctant to speak to you,” said committee vice chairman Rep. Don Phillips, who said he interviewed hundreds of witnesses during a 28-year career as Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper.
A woman with whom Greitens has acknowledged having an affair has testified at least seven times, including once to the House investigatory committee in March. Barnes said the panel was subpoenaing her to appear again on June 5, the day after Greitens.
The governor’s lawyers have been critical of the process being used by the House committee, which has declined Greitens’ request to call and cross-examine witnesses during the legislative hearings. Some Greitens’ supporters have suggested the House should wait until all criminal cases are resolved before pursuing impeachment, though there is no constitutional requirement to do so.
No trial date is set yet for a St. Louis felony charge of tampering with computer data alleging that Greitens disclosed a donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the permission of the St. Louis-based veterans’ charity he founded.
A special prosecutor is still deciding whether to refile a separate felony invasion-of-privacy charge dismissed as jury selection began earlier this month. That charge alleged Greitens took and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of the women who has testified that she was bound, blindfolded and unclothed by Greitens in the basement of his St. Louis home. Greitens has denied criminal wrongdoing.
On Friday, the House investigatory committee questioned a forensic expert who analyzed the cellphones of Greitens, the woman and her ex-husband for the aborted invasion-of-privacy case.
Brian Koberna testified that he found traces of three deleted photos from March 21, 2015 — the date in question — on Greitnes’ phone but that they were “absolutely benign.” He said it’s possible there were more deleted photos for which traces no longer exist.
Committee member Rep. J. Eggleston said there appeared to be three possible scenarios: Greitens never took the photo as alleged; he took it but deleted it, and the phone storage space it occupied has since been overridden with other data; or he took the photo with a different device than the one examined by the expert.
Rep. Curtis Trent, who like Eggleston is a recent addition to the committee, redirected the questioning of Koberna to highlight the fact that no evidence of any such photo exists. Trent attempted to introduce into evidence a document he said was provided by Greitens’ attorneys relating to Koberna’s analysis of phones belonging to the woman and her ex-husband.
Other committee members reacted with umbrage, accusing Greitens’ attorneys of “cherry picking evidence” while refusing to provide other documents the committee has sought and suggesting that a court order prohibited them from doing so.
Barnes then got into a sharp-tongued exchange with Greitens’ attorney, Michelle Nasser, much as he had in previous days with Greitens’ lawyer Ed Dowd. Barnes later publicly apologized to Nasser while claiming that Dowd — who was not present — had been lying to the committee for the past three months.
Nasser read a statement from Dowd indicating that Greitens’ attorneys thought that the document they provided to Trent already had been included in evidence given to the legislative committee by the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office.
The committee refused to accept the limited documents from Greitens’ lawyers and instead voted to subpoena Koberna for all of his records related to the forensic cellphone analyses.
Follow David A. Lieb at: http://twitter.com/DavidALieb