JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Drawing on his Navy SEAL training, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens asserted Thursday that he will not quit or back down despite a criminal charge and potential impeachment proceedings involving various allegations of misconduct against him.
Greitens' defiant comments came as Missouri lawmakers and the governor's legal team escalated their battle in advance of a special legislative session starting Friday focused on potentially disciplining the governor.
A House panel sued two Greitens' political committees Thursday to try to enforce subpoenas seeking records as part of an investigation into whether Greitens tried "to circumvent Missouri's campaign finance disclosure laws."
The governor's campaign attorney countered later in the day by claiming that a former political aide had stolen a charity donor list — which Greitens is charged with misusing for his 2016 campaign — and shared it with a political group opposing Greitens' candidacy.
Greitens hosted a relatively rare public event Thursday in Jefferson City to announce funding for biodiesel facilities. At the end of a celebratory speech, Greitens shifted topics to the challenges he's facing and recounted how he once felt like quitting during a grueling Navy SEAL training session in which his team of seven men had carry a heavy log over a beach. Greitens said he kept going for the good of the team.
The Republican governor then declared: "No matter what they throw at me, no matter how painful they try to make it, no matter how much suffering they want to put me and my family through and my team through ... we are going to step forward day after day after day, and we are going to continue in our mission to fight for the people of Missouri."
Prosecutors in St. Louis dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against Greitens earlier this week that accused him of taking a nonconsensual photo of an almost entirely naked woman with whom he acknowledged having an affair in 2015. Prosecutors have said the charge could be refiled.
Greitens also faces another felony charge alleging he tampered with computer data by disclosing the donor list of The Mission Continues to his political fundraiser in 2015 without the permission of the St. Louis-based charity he founded.
On Friday, the Missouri Legislature is to convene a monthlong special session devoted solely to investigating allegations against Greitens, with the possibility of impeaching him in an attempt to remove him from office.
Greitens declined to answer a question Thursday from The Associated Press about whether he would testify before the House investigatory committee.
The House investigatory committee went to Cole County Circuit Court asking it to enforce subpoenas against Greitens' campaign committee and an organization called A New Missouri that conceals the identity of donations it receives to promote Greitens' agenda
Attorney Catherine Hanaway, who represents both committees, has said she believes the subpoena to A New Missouri is "beyond the scope of the investigation" by the House.
Greitens' campaign committee has turned over thousands of documents to the House investigatory panel. But the court filing says it has not complied with the subpoena's request to also provide documents and communications relating to A New Missouri or coordination between the two committees.
Hanaway countered by releasing a statement later Thursday accusing former Greitens' campaign manager Danny Laub of taking The Mission Continues donor list with him when he left Greitens' campaign in 2015 and sharing it with a group called Patriots for America. Hanaway said that group sent an anti-Greitens email to at least one person on The Mission Continues donor list in December 2015.
As evidence, she released a December 2015 email from Greitens' campaign finance director Meredith Gibbons in which Gibbons acknowledges using the charity donor list for political fundraising and speculates that Laub provided it to Patriots for America.
Attorneys for the Cape Sokol law firm in St. Louis, which represents Laub, said in an email that Laub didn't send the charity donor list to Patriots for America and was "offended at the baseless allegations."
Hanaway said Greitens had a legitimate claim to the donor list because he "built this list from his contacts and personal relationships cultivated over a lifetime."
Federal law bars 501(c)(3) charities such as The Mission Continues from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of candidates. The Mission Continues has repeatedly said Greitens did not have permission to use its list for political purposes.