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Greitens impeachment attorneys call for open process

Greitens impeachment attorneys call for open process

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Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens arrives at court in St. Louis

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens arrives at court in St. Louis on Thursday, May 10, 2018, for the first day of jury selection in his felony invasion of privacy trial. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Attorneys hired to assist Gov. Eric Greitens if Missouri lawmakers seek to impeach the embattled chief executive say they want to ensure the process is brought out of the shadows.

With a special House committee compiling information that could be used to impeach Greitens in the coming weeks, attorney Ross Garber said he wants to work with legislative leaders to outline a process that the public can observe.

“The notion of disciplining a governor is an extraordinarily significant and rare thing and any process that is used to evaluate that has to be fair, constitutional and open and transparent,” Garber told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday.

Garber, a Connecticut resident who has defended three other governors facing impeachment proceedings, is being paid $320 an hour in taxpayer funds to help navigate the legal questions that come when a legislative body investigates the executive branch.

Also on board the legal team is Kansas City attorney Eddie Greim of the Graves Garrett law firm. The firm is headed by Todd Graves, chairman of the Missouri Republican Party and a Greitens ally.

Except for issuing two scathing reports about Greitens, the special investigative committee probing Greitens has conducted the bulk of its work behind closed doors.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said the nature of the committee’s initial work necessitated the secret meetings. He suggested that will change after May 18.

“As we move into the special session, those things will be conducted in a very fair and open manner,” Richardson said Thursday. “From the beginning, I’ve said we’re going to have a fair and open process.”

With Greitens on trial for felony invasion of privacy in a St. Louis courtroom beginning Monday, the House and Senate have scheduled a special session of the Legislature beginning May 18 to review the committee’s report and decide whether to start the process of removing the governor from office.

In announcing the special session, Richardson said the session will give the committee “the time it needs to conduct a fair, thorough and timely investigation” without being halted by the end of the regular session.

Garber and Greim said House leaders must be aware of the precedent of launching an impeachment proceeding.

“What the House is doing today will affect every future governor and will potentially affect all of the voters who cast ballots in the last election,” Garber said.

Greim said the template used by the House will be viewed by other states pondering similar actions. He said he hopes the governor’s legal team can meet with Richardson to map out procedures that will be used in any possible proceedings.

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

Under one proposed timeline, the House would 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. The panel then must pick a president and a secretary and notify the governor that they will be presiding over his trial. All those steps could take the process into August.

There are no rules in state law or the Missouri Constitution governing how fast the judicial panel must work. And, since there is no precedent for what might transpire, it is not known when the episode will be over.

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.

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

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