JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri's Republican legislative leadership called on GOP Gov. Eric Greitens to resign Tuesday after the state's attorney general suggested that Greitens' use of a charity donor list for political purposes may have broken state law. Greitens quickly replied that he won't quit.
The Republican governor already is facing a felony invasion-of-privacy charge related to an extramarital affair that occurred as he was preparing to run for governor in 2015. Legislative leaders said the potential of a second felony charge was too much for the state to bear.
"When leaders lose the ability to effectively lead our state, the right thing to do is step aside. In our view, the time has come for the governor to resign," House Speaker Todd Richardson said in a joint statement with House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr and House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo.
Greitens said he plans to remain in office as his May 14 trial date approaches on the invasion of privacy charge.
"I will not be resigning the Governor's office," he said. "In three weeks, this matter will go to a court of law, where it belongs and where the facts will prove my innocence. Until then, I will do what the people of Missouri sent me here to do: to serve them and work hard on their behalf."
If Greitens doesn't quit, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said the House should immediately begin impeachment proceedings to try to remove him from office.
"We are past the point of concerning and alarming. Since his time in office, the governor has caused tension, conflict and hostility. The weight of his actions are being felt throughout the state," Richard said.
Earlier Tuesday, Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley said an investigation by his office shows that Greitens took computer data listing the top donors to The Mission Continues without the consent of the St. Louis-based veterans' charity he had founded and used it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign.
Hawley said he referred the matter to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has jurisdiction to decide whether to charge Greitens with a crime. He also referred his findings to a special House investigatory committee that is considering whether to recommend impeachment proceedings to try to remove Greitens from office.
The Associated Press first reported in 2016 that Greitens' campaign obtained the list and raised nearly $2 million from donors on it.
"We believe that the evidence we have will support a finding of probable cause that the governor obtained the list, used the list (and) transmitted the list without the permission of The Mission Continues and he did so for political fundraising purposes," Hawley said at a news conference.
Greitens issued a rebuttal statement questioning the legal skills of Hawley and lambasting him for working with Gardner, a Democrat. Greitens and Hawley both won election in 2016 as maverick political outsiders. Hawley now is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and has faced an onslaught of Democratic ads trying to link him to Greitens.
"Anyone who has set foot in a Missouri courtroom knows these allegations are ridiculous," Greitens said. He added: "We will dispense with these false allegations."
The invasion-of-privacy charge in St. Louis alleges he took and transmitted a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015. A separate House investigatory panel released a report last week containing testimony from the woman alleging that Greitens restrained, slapped, grabbed, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
A spokeswoman for Gardner said St. Louis prosecutors met with officials from the attorney general's office Monday and are "reviewing the evidence" related to The Mission Continues donor list.