A woman who carried out a 2015 affair with Gov. Eric Greitens (R) told legislative investigators that he coerced her into unwanted sexual contact while she wept on the floor of his basement. The woman’s testimony was included in a highly-anticipated Missouri House committee report released Wednesday evening.
The 25-page report includes graphic, disturbing claims about a March 2015 encounter at Greitens’ St. Louis home. According to the woman, who testified under oath, Greitens held her down in a “bear hug,” fondling her while she wept “uncontrollably,” before pulling out his penis and putting it near her face.
The woman said she proceeded to give him oral sex because she thought “that would allow me to leave” and feared for her “physical self.”
In addition to these shocking new claims, the woman testified about previously surfaced allegations that Greitens slapped her and threatened to blackmail her with a nude photo that he took of her without her consent.
The governor has admitted to carrying out an extramarital affair with the woman but adamantly denied allegations that he took a nonconsensual nude photo and threatened to release it if she discussed their relationship publicly. He has remained defiant throughout this public, messy scandal, pledging to remain in office.
In a brief public statement just before the House report’s release, Greitens referred to the findings as “tabloid trash.”
“This is exactly like what’s happening with witch hunts in Washington D.C.,” Greitens said, using President Trump’s favorite term for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The seven-person legislative committee, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, said in the report that they found the woman to be a “credible” witness.
The committee first convened in March after Greitens was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge for the alleged blackmail. That trial is set to begin in mid-May.
According to the woman’s testimony, she and the governor engaged in a series of sexual encounters in the spring and summer of 2015. In the woman’s description, some aspects appeared to be nonconsensual.
She told the committee that during that first meeting at his home in March 2015, Greitens led her to his basement, bound her hands to exercise equipment, and blindfolded her. He proceeded to spit water in her mouth, rip her shirt open, and take a photo of her without asking permission, threatening to release the photo if she ever told anyone what had happened.
When she told him she was angry about the photograph, he told her, “You have to understand, I’m running for office, and people will get me, and I have to have some sort of thing to protect myself,” according to her testimony. She told the committee Greitens promised he had deleted it.
The panel also heard testimony from the woman’s ex-husband and from two of the woman’s friends, who said she told them similar stories about the governor at the time.
All day Wednesday, as lawmakers were briefed on the report’s contents and huddled behind closed doors, a trickle of damning remarks flowed from the Capitol in Jefferson City.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the conduct described in the report was “embarrassing,” “deplorable” and “very sexual in nature.” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty called for the governor to resign immediately, while GOP Missouri political operatives told reporters that the committee’s findings were as graphic and damaging as they feared.
Greitens’ attorneys had tried to delay the report’s release until after the felony trial begins on May 14. Their efforts were unsuccessful, but the committee extended the deadline to release its final report and recommendation on what action the legislature should take until May 18.
Many Democratic lawmakers and a handful of Republicans have for weeks called for the governor to step down, saying the dual investigations from the House and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner are distracting from the state government’s work.
This week, for example, the House canceled most of its business on Wednesday and all activities Thursday. Though no official explanation was provided, some lawmakers muttered to local media that the decision was made in order to prepare for the impact of the committee’s report.
Greitens’ attorneys have sought to cast doubt on his former lover’s credibility, claiming in a court filing last weekend that she testified that she may have only dreamed up or imagined Greitens taking the photograph of her.
The woman’s lawyer accused Greitens of cherry-picking and mischaracterizing details from her nine-hour testimony. In a statement, her legal team reiterated that the governor admitted to her “on multiple occasions” that he took the nonconsensual photo and threatened to release it.