The political crisis confronting Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) appeared to deepen significantly on Wednesday with the release of a dramatic legislative report that outlines in sharp detail new allegations about the governor’s behavior toward a woman who was his hair dresser.
Once considered a rising star in the Republican Party with a sterling résumé, the former Navy SEAL has found his political fortunes badly damaged by the allegations and ensuing felony charge that he invaded the woman’s privacy by taking a nude photo of her without her consent. His trial is set to begin in St. Louis circuit court next month.
The result of an investigation, which the chamber voted 154-0 to launch, the report raised the specter of impeachment for Greitens and prompted another round of calls for Greitens to step down, including by the state’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic Sen. Clair McCaskill.
One Republican state representative called Greitens “an embarrassment.”
While Greitens has described the extramarital relations as “consensual,” the woman, referred to only as Witness 1 in the report, said it included unwanted and potentially coerced sexual acts that she felt afraid to say no to and physical violence, in addition to the threat of photographic blackmail.
Greitens, who has resisted calls to step down amid the scandal as he awaits trial next month, declined to participate or testify for the committee’s report.
In the hours before the report’s scheduled release, he delivered a defiant speech in which he called the investigation into him a “political witch hunt,” echoing the phrase used regularly by President Trump.
“I will continue to serve the people of Missouri as their governor and to work for you every day,” he said. “And they know, they need to know, that fake charges and falsehoods aren’t going to stop us.”
The special committee set up to investigate the charge, meanwhile, wrote that it found the woman a credible witness.
The woman said the physical contact began in 2015 with Greitens, who is married, after he had been her client on and off for a more than a year. During a haircut, Greitens moved his hand “all the way up,” to her crotch without consent, the woman said, a move that left her “curious,” and confused.
“Why did he feel like he could do that?” she told the committee.
About a week later, Greitens asked her to meet him in an alleyway behind a Starbucks when she phoned him, and invited her over to his house for a weekend when his wife would be out of town, she said.
The woman later asked if he wanted to meet at a cafe, but Greitens told her he couldn’t be seen in public because he was running for office, the woman said, according to the report. Instead, she agreed to go to his house where he told her she could “come in through the back door, nobody will see you, we can talk.”
When she arrived at 7 a.m., about 45 minutes before she was supposed to arrive at her job, Greitens took her keys, searched her purse and patted her down, checking outside to see if anyone had seen her come in, the report said.
The woman said she wanted to talk to him but he asked to “take her through an exercise,” for which he had her change into a white T-shirt with a cut at the top and men’s pajama pants. He then told her he was going to show her how to do a proper pullup, she said.
The witness told the committee that she thought they were going to do some sort of “sexy workout,” and that she was both “curious” and “confused.”
After they went to the house’s basement, Greitens taped her hands to the pullup rings with gauze tape and put a blindfold on her, items which had been laying on a workout bench, the report said. He told her she needed to be hydrated and tried to spit water in her mouth multiple times though she spit it out, she said, “because I didn’t even want to kiss him.”
Greitens began kissing her neck and chest and ripped her shirt open to expose her, and pulled down her pants.
She said she heard him step back and then take what she believed was a picture on his phone, seeing the flash through her blindfold. She said Greitens warned her not to mention his name “to anybody at all, because if you do, I’m going to take these pictures, and I’m going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are.”
The woman said she stayed silent, thinking that this was the “most embarrassing thing” that had ever happened to her, before finally saying she wouldn’t tell anyone. He began kissing her again, at which she started “freaking out,” and trying to rip down her hands, she said.
“I was like, ‘Get me out of here. I’m not ready for this. I don’t want this. I don’t want this,’ ” she said.
Of her emotions at that point, she said she was “fearful,” “embarrassed,” and “ashamed,” feeling bad about herself for letting him get her in that position.
She said, “I just kept saying, ‘Get me out of here. I’m not ready for this.’ It was also, too, that feeling of, I came here not wanting to do anything — nothing.”
After she tried to leave, he grabbed her in a bear hug and laid her down on the ground in the basement, she said.
“So he was laying there and I was laying next to him just crying — like uncontrollably crying,” she said. “And he was like, ‘Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s okay.’ That’s all he was really saying at this point. And he was trying to, like fondle my body.”
Greitens eventually undid his pants and moved his crotch near her face, after which she gave him oral sex, she said, feeling that it was the only way she’d be able to leave.
“So this guy literally just wants me for this, and this is all he wants, and then he’ll let me — because at this point, too, I also know I have to be at work, and he’s not going to let me leave,” she said, describing her thoughts to the committee. “So I gave him oral sex at this point.”
She said she felt the act was “coerced, maybe,” and that one of the emotions she felt was fear for her “physical self.”
Two friends testified to the committee that the woman had told her many elements of the story that aligned with the account she gave the committee.
The woman told the committee that Greitens came in for other appointments with her after the first encounter. The first time, he said to her, “You didn’t tell anybody, did you?” the woman said. In the next, he showed up early and the two shared a consensual kiss. They later had more consensual relations, including oral sex.
In June, during another encounter, he asked her if she had been intimate with anyone else and slapped her across the face when she said that she had been with her husband.
She described her reaction as, “What? Eric, what in the heck? You’re married. Why would — what do you mean? And he just said, No. Like, that was — you’re mine. This is — what do you mean you slept with your husband? You are not supposed to be sleeping with him, you know? And I said, I think you’re screwed up from being in the Navy.”
Another time he smacked, grabbed and shoved her to the ground in the midst of a sexual act, she said.
“And I instantly just started bawling and was just like, ‘What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?’ And I just laid there crying while he was just like … ‘you’re fine, you’re fine.’ ”
The woman later told Greitens to leave her alone.
Greitens has hired a high-powered legal team to defend him and a lobbyist to represent him in the state legislature. His lawyers have sought to sow doubt about the woman’s account and the case brought by St. Louis circuit attorney, Kimberly M. Gardner.
The committee asked the woman why she continued to have contact with Greitens after the first encounter.
“I’ve asked myself that so many times,” she said. “I think it comes down to a few things. One, I felt really disgusted with myself that I allowed that first time to happen. Really embarrassed that he thought of me as a whore. And so after my — I told my husband and he was clear that he did not want anything to do with me, that he wanted to move into an apartment, and when Eric came back in and he was normal and so kind to me, that felt so much better and it allowed me to just ignore any of those bad feelings about myself, in particular. Because if I thought he was this horrible person, I really felt shameful of myself.”
Sean Sullivan contributed to this report, which has been updated.