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House panel won’t allow cross-examination by governor’s attorneys

Gov. Eric Greitens, at top left, faces a state House committee investigation led by Jay Barnes, at bottom left. The other committee members at at right.
Gov. Eric Greitens faces a state House committee investigation. Committee chairman Rep. Jay Barnes, at bottom left, and other committee members investigating Greitens' conduct held a meeting Tuesday.

The Missouri House committee investigating allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens has rejected his lawyers’ request that they be allowed to cross-examine the panel’s witnesses.

The committee’s decision Tuesday was aimed at preventing what one member called a “filibuster’’ by the governor's legal team in order to slow down their proceedings. The panel noted that the lawyers already had interviewed most of its previous and potential witnesses.

Greitens lawyer Ross Garber told reporters later that the decision was unfair.

“By shutting out the office of the governor, and the governor, it by definition leads to a process in which the public will not have confidence in either the process or the results,” Garber said.

The House panel is looking into allegations of improper personal and professional behavior by Greitens. The committee is expected to take a few weeks to reach a conclusion. Its report will then go the full House, which will decide whether the governor should be impeached.

If the House votes for impeachment, the matter would go to the Senate, which would appoint a panel of judges to hear the case and decide whether Greitens should be removed from office.

Readings take the stage

The House panel’s meeting on Tuesday – its first since the special session began – kicked off a week’s worth of activity that apparently will include a lot of reading aloud.

Chairman Jay Barnes announced that the committee will read into the record hundreds of pages of documents that the panel has obtained from Greitens’ attorneys and from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office. Most are written accounts of interviews and depositions.

First up: state Rep. Don Phillips, a Republican from Kimberling City, who on Tuesday played the role of Gardner as she interviewed K.S. – the initials for the woman at the center of some of the accusations against Greitens.

Rep. Gina Mitten, a Democrat from Richmond Heights, was reading K.S.’s words. Early on, Mitten asked if she should read aloud any “dirty words’’ in the woman’s testimony.

Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City, said she must, but later left that decision up to each individual committee member as their turn to read came up.

Barnes explained earlier that the 10-member panel will take turns reading aloud. He said the reading may extend through Saturday, in order to get all the testimony recorded.

For a time, Barnes gave a particularly spirited reading as K.S.

Interesting tidbits read aloud Tuesday included K.S.'s acknowledgement that she had been the hair stylist for Greitens, a Republican, and his Democratic rival in 2016, then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

She testified that after the November 2016 election, Koster told her that he had known about the affair. Koster's campaign made no mention of it.

New members, new witnesses

Three committee members were added Tuesday: Republicans Curtis Trent of Springfield and J. Eggleston of Maysville, and Democrat Greg Razer from Kansas City.

House Speaker Todd Richardson announced last week that he decided the panel, originally with seven members, needed to be beefed up to help out with the work.

Readings aside, two new witnesses also will be called this week. One is Missouri Times publisher Scott Faughn, who delivered at least $50,000 to Al Watkins, the lawyer for K.S.’ ex-husband.

Faughn has agreed to testify on Wednesday. Watkins is scheduled to follow on Thursday.

The ex-husband ignited the controversy when he appeared on KMOV TV in January. The station played parts of a recording that the ex-husband had secretly made of K.S., then his wife, as she admitted to an affair in 2015 with Greitens before he became governor.

K.S. alleged that Greitens had taken a photo of her as she was partially nude, blindfolded and tied up in his basement, and that he had threatened to make the photo public if she ever disclosed their affair. She also alleged he had coerced her to perform a sex act.

In the testimony read aloud Tuesday, K.S. said that Greitens later told her he had deleted the photo.

Greitens has acknowledged the affair, but has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

K.S. said in a television interview Monday on Five On Your Side that she had never wanted to go public with the affair. She said she was cooperating with investigators only because Greitens’ lawyers had accused her of lying.

A special prosecutor – Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker – is taking over the invasion of privacy case. Gardner is no longer involved because of issues involving her office’s handling of the case.

Panel to look at governor’s campaign

The House committee also is looking into other issues swirling around Greitens, notably his admitted campaign use in 2016 of a donor list belonging to a charity he helped establish, called The Mission Continues.

Greitens was fined $1,000 in 2017 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for failing to report his use of the list as an in-kind campaign donation. He paid only $100 by paying the fine quickly. But other legal issues have arisen, including whether he lied in the consent order with the commission.

The Kansas City Star has reported that the House committee is seeking some of Greitens’ bank records; Barnes declined to be interviewed Tuesday.

The governor has said he won’t resign. At a news conference last week, he blamed his political enemies, singling out the low-income housing industry. Right before news of his affair broke, Greitens had frozen the state’s low-income housing tax credit program, alleging that it was inefficient and a waste of state tax dollars.

Greitens also has gone on TV with promotional ads.  The Federal Communications Commission's records indicate that the governor's campaign committee is paying more than $100,000 to air ads in May and June on St. Louis TV stations.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

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