JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri lawmakers launched a special session Friday evening to consider whether to impeach Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to try to remove him from office.
The special session can last up to 30 days, according to the Missouri Constitution.
A House investigatory committee has released multiple reports containing allegations against Greitens. He’s accused of wrongfully using a donor list from a veterans’ charity he founded to raise money for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. He’s also accused of restraining, photographing, slapping and shoving a woman during sexual encounters in 2015.
Some questions and answers about impeachment:
What is impeachment?
The impeachment process is separate from criminal proceedings. It is a means of attempting to remove an elected official from office. First, the House of Representatives passes articles of impeachment. Then a panel of judges conducts a trial on the impeachment charge. If convicted, the elected official is removed from office. The process can occur even if the official has not been charged and convicted of a crime.
When can an impeachment occur?
The state Constitution sets forth several grounds for impeachment: “crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”
How does impeachment occur?
House rules say articles of impeachment can be introduced only by a committee that the House speaker has designated to investigate the matter. A majority vote of the House — 82 of the 163 seats — is needed to approve impeachment articles. That’s the same amount needed to pass legislation.
Who hears the case?
If the House impeaches a governor, the Senate then chooses a special commission of seven circuit or appellate court judges to hear the case. The commission is to meet in Jefferson City within 30 days. It will summon the accused to answer the impeachment charge, provide reasonable time to do so and schedule a trial. The case can proceed even if the accused declines to appear or respond to the articles of impeachment.
What's needed for a conviction?
The judicial commission is to follow the rules of evidence used in civil court cases, not criminal ones. Civil cases require a lower standard of proof for verdicts. In a 1994 case, the Missouri Supreme Court established “clear and convincing evidence” as the standard for a conviction in an impeachment trial, not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as used in criminal cases. At least five of the seven judges must agree to convict someone of impeachment charges.
When did Missouri last impeach?
Democratic Secretary of State Judi Moriarty was impeached in October 1994 and ousted from office two months later for backdating her son’s candidacy filing papers for a state House seat. The impeachment process occurred after she had been convicted in a criminal case but before her appeal and sentence had been finalized. The impeachment trial was conducted by the state Supreme Court, which hears cases involving any executive official except the governor. Moriarty is the only Missouri official ever ousted from office after impeachment.
Have other governors been ousted?
Eight governors in other states have been ousted from office following impeachment. The most recent was Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was removed in 2009 after federal authorities accused him of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated when Barack Obama was elected president. Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham was removed from office in 1988 after he was convicted of trying to thwart an investigation into a death threat allegedly made by an aide. Others convicted in impeachment trials include Oklahoma Govs. Henry Johnston in 1929 and John Walton in 1923, Texas Gov. James Ferguson in 1917, New York Gov. William Sulzer in 1913, and Nebraska Gov. David Butler and North Carolina Gov. William Holden, both in 1871.