JEFFERSON CITY • The chairman of the House committee investigating Eric Greitens begged the Republican governor to testify before the panel as it considers his impeachment.
But attorneys for the often secretive governor said Wednesday there is no guarantee that will happen.
“That’s going to be an issue for the governor and his personal attorney,” said Ross Garber, an impeachment expert who is representing the Office of the Governor.
Garber’s comments came after the panel spent more than two hours hearing from him and another Greitens office attorney, Edward Greim. They called for a transparent process by the House to determine whether the embattled chief executive should be ousted from office — one in which Greitens’ attorneys should be allowed to cross-examine witnesses.
The committee has heard from a number of witnesses in closed session, without the participation of Greitens’ attorneys. But Greitens so far has declined the committee’s invitations to testify under oath.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, told the attorneys he’d get down on his knees and say “please, please, please” if it would result in Greitens coming before the committee.
“If the governor refuses to testify, and I hope that’s not the case, are you going to accuse the committee of being unfair?” Barnes asked the duo, who are being paid a combined $660 an hour in taxpayer funds to represent the office.
The committee, which was formed in February after Greitens was charged with felony invasion of privacy in connection with a 2015 extramarital affair, has released two reports, including one on the affair. The felony charge connected with the affair was dropped Monday by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.
The second report includes allegations that Greitens operated a shadow campaign before forming a campaign committee in February 2015. Missouri law requires formation of a campaign once the candidate spends more than $500.
With the first criminal charge now dismissed and the trial not going forward, Greitens was back in the Capitol Wednesday. Some lawmakers stopped by his office for breakfast and then headed to the hearing.
Among House Republicans on hand were Reps. Bruce DeGroot of Chesterfield, Chuck Basye of Rochport, Randy Pietzman of Troy, John Wiemann of O’Fallon, Bill White of Joplin, Holly Rehder of Sikeston and Derek Grier of Chesterfield.
The committee is working to develop a set of rules that will govern how it operates in the special session, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The attorneys are seeking rules that are most favorable to the governor, including a provision allowing them to cross-examine all witnesses.
Greim and Garber said that could include the woman at the center of the felony invasion of privacy case, whose name has not been released publicly.
But just as they wouldn’t guarantee Greitens would appear, they also said it is too early to say whether the woman should be called to testify. “We don’t know what the subject of the special session will be,” Garber said.
The House does not have to comply with their requests, and Barnes would not say Wednesday whether rules will be adopted before the session begins Friday evening.
In his testimony, Greim called for guidelines that would ensure the public that impeachment is justified.
“The facts must be truly extraordinary,” Greim said.
Greim said unless the panel adopts his proposed procedure, there will be “severe violence to the careful separation of powers maintained since 1821.
“At stake, ultimately, is an election,” Garber added.
While Greim said it is important for the House to act based on facts, Barnes said it would be helpful if the governor would testify before the panel.
“This committee wants to hear the truth. We are begging to hear from Governor Greitens,” Barnes said.
Since taking office, Greitens has often operated in secret, using a special phone app that destroys text messages after being read, installing special locks on the doors to his suite of offices and not announcing when he is traveling out of the state. He hasn’t answered reporters’ questions for weeks.
“When can we expect to hear from the governor?” asked Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, who also is a member of the committee.
“That’s not a decision we’d participate in right now,” Greim said. “We’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit.”
Greim said he is focused on laying out the procedures of the special session.
“It’s our job to make sure the governor has the opportunity to testify,” Greim said.