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Missouri State Rep. Jay Barnes

Missouri State Rep. Jay Barnes (left) speaks alongside House Speaker Todd Richardson at a press conference where it was announced that a committee has been formed to investigate the indictment of Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Legislators cleared out of the Capitol on Thursday, the end of their workweek, leaving the public with one massive cliffhanger in advance of the weekend.

What would a report by a Missouri House committee meeting in secret to investigate Gov. Eric Greitens contain?

“Right now I think people are trying to get as much legislation passed before the next two weeks — because they don’t know if all hell’s going to break out,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said before the Senate adjourned Thursday.

House members voted unanimously last month to establish a special committee to investigate Greitens — a precursor to possible impeachment proceedings. The resolution forming the committee stipulated that the report be completed Sunday, making the expected date of release Monday.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, told reporters she was confident the release of the report would be delayed, at least temporarily. House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, assured reporters in an emailed statement that the report would be released when finished.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said in an email: “Our committee will issue a report next week.”

On Wednesday, Barnes offered an emphatic “no” when asked if the panel would delay the release of its report.

Thursday’s statements came after Greitens’ legal team sent a letter to the special committee — made up of five Republicans and two Democrats — asking that the release of the report be delayed in part because it could influence the jury pool ahead of Greitens’ May 14 trial in St. Louis for felony invasion of privacy charges.

Barnes and Richardson gave no reason for the apparent delay. McCann Beatty said she did not know why the report would probably not be released on time. The resolution forming the committee states that the committee can extend its timeline, but it was unclear Thursday afternoon whether committee members had officially done so.

Greitens, a Republican, has been under a microscope since a St. Louis television station reported in January that before he was elected governor he had an extramarital affair with his hairdresser and may have threatened her with a compromising photograph.

Since then, other questions about the governor have swirled, such as whether he illegally used assets from the charity he founded, The Mission Continues, to boost his career as a politician and author.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, said that Hawley’s office had issued a “civil subpoena” to Greitens through his company, The Greitens Group. Hawley launched his own investigation of The Mission Continues last month.

“We have issued a civil subpoena to the Greitens Group. Eric Greitens is the registered agent for the Greitens Group, and Eric Greitens has accepted service of the subpoena through his counsel,” spokeswoman Mary Compton said in a statement.

Hallway chatter

Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, told the Post-Dispatch on Thursday that he had seen a copy of some kind of letter being circulated among House members indicating that the release of the report should be delayed.

Cornejo said he wasn’t sure whether an associate of the governor or one of his House colleagues was circulating the document.

“It just talked about where we were at in the process as far as whether it would be prudent for the House investigative committee to request some more time to allow them to gather more facts,” he said, adding that he had not been asked to sign it.

Since the committee’s formation, details on the investigation have been scarce. Barnes said during a briefing last month that the committee had issued “some subpoenas” and had interviewed “a number” of witnesses, but he would not get into specifics.

Rep. Jean Evans, R-Manchester, said her colleagues were filled with “apprehension” in advance of the report’s release, wondering how salacious the contents of the report would be.

“You don’t want to read about your governor like it’s a cheap novel,” Evans told the Post-Dispatch, “so I think people are apprehensive.”

“I’m sure there’s a lot of angst waiting for that report,” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “We’ll see what happens.”

Greitens has not been interviewed by the House committee, his attorneys have said. In a letter to the committee delivered last week, his attorneys asked the panel to delay release of its findings until after a May 14 trial in St. Louis, at which Greitens faces felony invasion of privacy charges.

The attorneys worried that the release of the report could influence the jury pool.

In addition, the letter said the report would “disseminate incomplete, false and misleading information that will cause damage to entirely innocent people, some of whom are families and children.”

Among the attorneys signing the letter was Ross Garber, a Washington-based lawyer who has represented three governors in impeachment proceedings: Robert Bentley of Alabama, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and John Rowland of Connecticut.

Greitens emerges

Greitens emerged on Thursday to hold a meeting of the Board of Public Buildings in the governor’s office. The board issues bonds and consists of three members: Greitens; Hawley; and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican.

But only Greitens showed to the public meeting. Hawley phoned in, and Parson was gaveling in the Senate at 10 a.m. when the meeting was called to order.

Because only one of the members was present, the board adjourned without taking any action. After the meeting, a Post-Dispatch reporter asked Greitens if he would answer a few questions.

“No,” Greitens said.

Was he sure?

“Yes,” Greitens said.

The reporter then asked whether Greitens was worried his campaign’s recent $50,000 ad buy going on the offensive against St. Louis prosecutors would taint the jury pool.

Greitens breezed by without answering the question. His spokesman, Parker Briden, shooed away the reporter.

The advertisement states in part that liberals are “hell-bent on stopping his conservative reforms.” The ad even invokes Satan, noting a 2017 lawsuit by the Satanic Temple in which the group challenges Missouri’s abortion laws.

“Even Satan’s own lawyers from the Satanic Temple are suing Greitens,” the advertisement says.

Greitens was scheduled to appear at a Republican Party event in Macon County Thursday night.

Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.

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