He maintains that he hasn't broken any law, that this is all a “witch hunt” against him, that the reason he's resigning is because his opponents “specifically designed” an “ordeal” to torment his family and friends.
Basically, departing Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) tried to survive career-ending sex and legal scandals by tossing blame everywhere but himself. It's the same playbook President Trump has used to defend himself in various legal and sex scandals, right down to language such as “witch hunt.”
Except for one very big difference: Trump has kept his job. Greitens, abandoned by members of his own party and facing impeachment threats, did not. He announced his resignation Tuesday, just a year and a half after getting elected to his first political office and being deemed a rising star of the Republican Party.
Greitens just demonstrated the limitations of the Trump playbook — the first rule of which is to fight allegations fiercely — for anyone not named Trump.
Actually, even in admitting defeat, Greitens refused to admit defeat.
“This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family; millions of dollars of mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends,” Greitens said Tuesday.
Greitens's defiant downfall was swift, but not as swift as most Republicans in Missouri would have liked. For months he has faced allegations he sexually assaulted a woman he was having an affair with before he became governor and that he threatened to blackmail her with a nude photo he took while she was blindfolded. He was also facing two unrelated felony charges that he improperly used a veterans charity donor list to raise money for his 2016 campaign.
Greitens denied everything but the affair, going so far as to call his accuser and Republican lawmakers who wrote a report on her story all liars. Yet Greitens's allies almost universally turned against him.
The state's attorney general, the state Senate majority leader and a major Greitens donor asked him to step down in April after the Republican-controlled state House released an explosive report detailing how the woman says he sexually assaulted her and threatened her.
Lawmakers called a special session — the first in state history — to consider impeaching the governor. Nearly every Republican leader in Missouri and a growing number in Washington privately worried about how the scandals could drag down their party's chances to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) this November.
Missouri Republicans certainly had more to lose than gain by Greitens staying on. Democrats were already running ads tying Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley to Greitens. He's the state's attorney general, and even though he asked for Greitens to step down, Democrats lumped Hawley in with general corruption in Missouri and accused him of not acting sooner.
“A governor under fire. A Capitol awash in corruption. In the middle, Attorney General Josh Hawley,” said one recent ad released by Senate Democrats' main super PAC.
Republican lawmakers didn't blame Democrats.
“The longer he stays around, the worse it's going to be for the Republicans,” Rob Schaaf, a Republican state senator who wrote a letter to Trump asking him to urge Greitens to resign, said in April. “It's guilty by association.”
Greitens, in other words, was expendable for the sake of the party, no matter how much he fought. In fact, it seemed sometimes that the more Greitens clawed against the allegations, the more his former allies shut him out.
One potential lesson here is that politicians' defiance and outrage in the face of serious allegations is not always a winning strategy. Even if it works for the president, it's not guaranteed to work for anyone else.
It's a lesson Greitens may have learned too late.