Greitens hearings could take months to complete

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May 9, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens delivers a speech April 25 in St. Louis. ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/LAURIE SKRIVAN/TNS

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers are scheduled to launch a 30-day special session on May 18 to consider the fate of scandal-plagued Gov. Eric Greitens, but it could be months before a final resolution is known.

The work of the Legislature to impeach the embattled Republican governor may end when the session’s deadline hits on June 17, but the panel of judges charged with deciding whether to formally remove him from office could take several weeks longer to conduct a trial, according to interviews with House and Senate officials and a review of state statutes.

That scenario is based on the possibility that a special House committee investigating Greitens recommends to the full House that the governor should be impeached, and that the House votes to do so. And, it is based on the governor’s assertions that he won’t resign.

For Missouri lawmakers, charting a course for the possible impeachment of a governor is a first. The only state officeholder who has been impeached and removed from office is Secretary of State Judi Moriarty, who was booted out of office in 1994 for using her position to help her son.

In announcing the special session, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said the session will give lawmakers “the time it needs to conduct a fair, thorough and timely investigation” without being halted by the end of the regular session.

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

The last governor to be impeached and removed from office in the United States was former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The process there took nearly two months to complete.

It began on Dec. 5, 2008, five days after Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges.

After lengthy hearings by a special committee, the full House voted to impeach the Chicago Democrat on Jan. 9. The Illinois Senate took up the issue in a trial on Jan. 26 and removed Blagojevich from office on Jan. 29, 2009.

Greitens was charged in February with felony invasion of privacy in connection with a picture he allegedly took of a woman he was having an affair with in 2015. His trial begins Monday.

The governor also faces a charge of felony computer tampering for obtaining a fundraising list from his former charity, the Mission Continues.

Before the House adjourns the regular session at 6 p.m. May 18, lawmakers could approve a procedural framework for how the impeachment process will work.

Under one proposed timeline, the House would then need at least five days to hold hearings, introduce legislation to impeach Greitens and debate the measure on the floor.

If Greitens is impeached, his fate would move to the Senate, which would appoint seven judges to hear the case for his formal removal from office.

But while the House and Senate have until June 17 to complete this work, the seven-judge panel would not have to operate under that time constraint.

Rather, according to statutes, the judges must meet in Jefferson City within 30 days of being appointed. That could send the process into mid-July.

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