JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House investigation into the Republican governor is moving forward with the unanimous adoption of the House Resolution forming the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight.
HR 5565, which passed in a 154-0 vote, sets the procedures for the committee of seven state representatives to investigate the allegations against Gov. Eric Greitens. Rep. Jay Barnes will chair the committee that also consists of Reps. Jeanie Lauer, Kevin Austin, Shaun Rhoads, Don Phillips, Gina Mitten, and Tommie Pierson Jr.
“The task of this committee is to conduct a fair, thorough, and timely investigation, and to do so without any preordained results,” Barnes said. “Our task, Mr. Speaker, is going to be to look at these facts and to come back to this body with a report based on our investigation.”
While hearings will be open to the public, all witness testimony will be closed. This is to ensure accurate and truthful testimony that is not influenced by other witnesses.
“If we had a public hearing… anything a previous witness said would be reported to other potential witnesses and they could come in and that could color their testimony based on what they have heard previous witnesses have said,” Barnes said. “I think the best way to get accurate information is to close those hearings so that other potential witnesses don’t know what previous witnesses have said.”
Transcripts of testimony will be available at the end of the investigation. Information regarding the identity of certain witnesses, certain testimony, and certain evidence will be redacted, along with any irrelevant embarrassing information, according to Barnes.
The committee will start with witnesses found in publicly available documents and based on that testimony may call others. Committee members could also make recommendations to call witnesses.
Subpoenas, signed by the Speaker of the House, will be issued for those witnesses. The idea is to treat all witnesses the same, according to Barnes.
“What we are looking for in this investigation are facts from first-hand witnesses,” Barnes said. The committee will be open to statements from lawyers but their testimony is hearsay or second-hand knowledge. “The main purpose is to gather facts which comes from testimony from witnesses.”
The committee will be requesting the documents disclosed by the St. Louis prosecutor. According to Barnes, the investigation will not go down any relevant paths, focusing only on facts pertaining to the allegations.
There is nothing in the rules that authorize the committee to write articles of impeachment, House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said.
“I think you are getting ahead of yourself and this committee’s job is to investigate underlying facts and to report back to the General Assembly,” said Barnes. “Maybe to conclusions says do go down that path, maybe it says don’t go down that path, at this point we don’t know.”
There have been so many rumors around the Capitol, some crazy rumors, no one knows what the facts are, according to Barnes. The point of the committee is to find out the facts and it will do so within the procedures set forth to allow due process.
“I did have some concerns about some of the rules in here not being specific enough, not having enough balance,” Rep. Peter Merideth said. “The reality is, we all in this body have significant biases and that’s the point of rules.”
Merideth felt it was important the body know what the process would be since they “are going down a path knowing there is a possibility of impeachment.”
Barnes maintained that it the committee is investigation was looking at facts and not drawing any foregone conclusions.
The committee has 40 days to investigate and report back to the House. That gives the members until early April unless an extension is necessary.
Beatty was curious if there was a hard deadline if the committee needed more time,
“Fair, thorough, and timely,” said Barnes. “To me timely means as quick as we can do it in a fair and thorough fashion. I am acutely aware of the end date of session.”
Wanting to make sure the committee had enough time to do its job while being held to some accountability to the body as a whole, Rep. Nick Marshall proposed giving them a 30 day time period.
“The fact of the matter is, we only have two and a half months of session left,” Marshall said. “Everybody that has served in this chamber, whether you be a senior or a freshman, know that when we get to the last six weeks of session, we are busy on legislation. We are busy doing what the people actually sent us here to do, and that is to consider the laws of this state.”
It would only be fair the House, the Senate, and the Governor that there be a definite deadline for the committee to report back, according to Marshall. He said that people want this over with.
His argument failed to gain the support of the body — Barnes standing in strong opposition — and Marshall’s amendment failed to be adopted.
“The charge of this committee to hold this investigation is very serious, outside of passing the budget this year is probably the most serious thing happen,” Rep. Jon Carpenter said. He urged the body to let this play out in a nonpartisan fashion.