The day after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted by a grand jury on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge, the state’s Republican Party began pointing fingers.
Not at Greitens, whose indictment stems from alleged actions during an extramarital affair, but at Democratic-leaning billionaire George Soros.
In a statement released Friday, Missouri Republican Party chief Sam Cooper suggested Greitens’s indictment was motivated by politics, and mentioned how Soros-backed groups had donated $200,000 to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. Gardner launched an investigation into Greitens’s affair in January, when accusations emerged that Greitens threatened to use a nude photo to blackmail his former hairstylist, with whom he was having the affair.
“Kim Gardner has received more than $200,000 from George Soros groups,” Cooper said in the statement. “Missourians should see this for what it is, a political hit job. This law has never been prosecuted in this way and it is safe to say if Eric Greitens wasn’t governor, it wouldn’t have been this time either.”
A spokesman for Gardner, Susan Ryan, told the Associated Press that Gardner was “not playing political games.”
Soros, a billionaire philanthropist and leading donor to liberal causes, has become a bogeyman to conservative figures who see him as a political machine and oppose the causes he supports. Some conservatives view the 86-year-old, who is worth about $25 billion, in a nefarious light, particularly after he donated to groups trying to stop President George W. Bush’s reelection bid in 2004 and after his vocal opposition to the Iraq War.
In the years since, Soros has found himself at the center of right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories. His donations backing democratic reform in the United States and across the globe — for example, his support for African American and Hispanic candidates, and reducing racial disparities in prison sentencing — have been viewed by some conservatives as steps toward a larger, secretive scheme.
Greitens, a rising star in the Republican Party, was indicted Thursday and booked in a St. Louis jail. After his release — on his own recognizance, according to court records — the freshman governor, who had previously said he will not resign, appeared to dig in, writing on Facebook that he would fight the charges and remain in office.
“This will not for a moment deter me from doing the important work of the great people of Missouri,” he wrote.
He called the indictment a “disappointing and misguided political decision” and added: “I look forward to the legal remedies to reverse this action.”
But not all Missouri Republicans believe Greitens’s indictment is politically motivated. An increasing number of Missouri lawmakers from both parties have demanded that Greitens resign ever since KMOV in St. Louis published a covert recording by Greitens’s former hairstylist’s ex-husband. In it, the hairstylist is heard describing how Greitens invited her to his home in 2015 and, with her consent, taped her hands to exercise rings and blindfolded her. He then allegedly took a photo of her naked without her knowledge.
Greitens then “transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer,” which is a felony, according to the indictment.
Those calling for Greitens’s resignation include Republican state Sen. Gary Romine, who asked for immediate impeachment proceedings should the governor refuse to step down.
“We need to get this behind us for the betterment of the state,” Romine told the AP. “It is clear the governor cannot lead effectively while defending himself against this criminal charge.”
Another Republican senator, Rob Schaaf, said simply: “. . . he’s done.”
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) said Greitens had damaged the reputation of the office of governor. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the indictment was a shock, but he tried to ease concerns that it would affect the legislative session, which runs through mid-May.
“We will make sure that the ship runs straight and that some of the issues that are coming out don’t deter us from doing the right thing and protecting people from the wrong thing that could come out of this building,” Kehoe told the newspaper.
Kehoe, however, was not “prepared to say” whether Greitens should resign.
Democrats, on the other hand, seized on the indictment, with the Democratic Governors Association calling on Greitens to step down immediately.
“The charges against Eric Greitens are deeply disturbing and prove he is unfit to hold public office,” said DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson. “The people of Missouri deserve a governor who can focus full time on the issues affecting the state.”