What the Greitens scandal could mean for Trump and the Republican Party

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Prior to the November 2016 elections, the similarities between two Republican candidates – now-President Donald Trump and Gov. Eric Greitens – could be easily drawn, using similar tactics and promises of cleaning up politics.

Both men claimed a Republican victory, with Greitens following Trump’s surge to claim the executive office. For both men, it was their first-ever elected office.

The political journey of the two men seems to mirror each other, and in the latest stream of events, both Trump and Greitens are in the middle of a difficult battle after sex scandals have plagued them both. Both men face investigations stemming from the campaign trail: for Trump, it’s allegations of Russian tampering, while authorities are now looking into Greitens’ campaign and the obtaining and use of a donor list from the charity he founded, The Mission Continues. Now, they both are using similar tactics and words, proclaiming themselves to be victims of a “witch hunt.”

Last week, President Trump tweeted “TOTAL WITCH HUNT” after FBI agents raided the offices and homes of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, Greitens preempted the release of a report by a special House committee, which outlined testimony of a woman’s claims that the Republican governor had sexually assaulted her. In his response, Greitens called it a “witch hunt” nearly half a dozen times, saying it was “exactly like what’s happening with the witch hunts in Washington, D.C.”

For Missouri’s legislature, the concern now is whether this will prove too much of a distraction to get anything done. Impeachment proceedings are not out of the question, but House Speaker Todd Richardson has stated that the time needed for the committee to finish their investigation will be given and that it could take the rest of the legislative session.

For Missouri Republicans, the scandal and ongoing woes could cause more significant issues for the party, particularly if it bleeds over on the ballot.

The issue is that such a place places Republicans in a spot where they must choose to stand by the Governor or call for impeachment.

It creates a divisiveness in the party, and in a year where Republicans’ goal had been to finally unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, every vote counts. And every day that the turmoil of Greitens’ scandal continues could cost Republicans more votes.

In short, Republicans could suffer at the ballots simply because they could be perceived as “guilty by association” with Greitens.

It could also very well mean turnover at the state legislature level. Seats that have been close in past elections could become even tighter, and between Greitens and Trump, there’s the possibility that a blue tide could be coming in 2018.

But there’s another caveat to the scenario: Does Greitens’ predicament threaten the agenda of President Donald Trump?

“I think it is conscious to link himself to Trump, but it’s a loser. It’s not going to work,” said Ed Martin, a former Missouri Republican Party chair, and Trump supporter. He says what is happening with Greitens could affect what is happening in national politics.

Martin previously called for Greitens to resign in January after the news broke about the allegations against the Republican governor.

“Lying to the people of Missouri, lying to all of us … He’s not trustworthy … At this point, there’s just no way that Eric Greitens can continue,” Martin said on his radio show on KXFN-AM 1380.

Last week, Martin told the Associated Press that Greitens “ran as something different than everybody else, and Trump was more in some ways upfront about who he was.”

As Martin’s comments note, while both men face allegations against them of a sexually charged nature, the difference between the two men lies in how they have portrayed themselves to the public.

President Trump has long been considered brazen, brash, and uncouth. His reputation as a businessman is well-known, as are his attitude and mannerisms. But Greitens ran his campaign on issues of morality, justice, and ethics. His image is that of a military man, a man of family and charity, and the man who had pledged, as an outsider, to clean up corruption.

And in just two years of his first term, he now finds himself mired in a scandal stemming from an extramarital affair in 2015.

But, the other side of the coin as that what is happening in Missouri mirrors that at the federal level in some ways. Some conservatives say that both scandals are simply attempts by the opposite party to unseat an executive they do not like. And as such, the question then becomes whether or not a Republican president is willing to call for the resignation of a Republican governor.

Because that is exactly what President Trump has been asked to do. In a letter sent to the President by Sens. Rob Schaaf, Doug Libla, and Gary Romine, they ask that the commander-in-chief call on the former soldier and tell him to stand down.

“It’s kind of a code to never surrender, never give up, don’t walk away from a battle, and I don’t think it’s in his nature to do it,” Schaaf told his colleagues on the Senate floor.

And, as a recently published article in Breitbart News explains, a “Democratic” attempt to bring down Greitens will embolden Democrats endeavoring to unseat Trump.

“To put it in brief: If Governor Greitens goes down, the Democrats will smell blood in the water for all Republican officer-holders, including the President,” Steve Hantler writes.

However, it’s worth noting that it’s not just Democrats calling for Greitens to resign. In fact, several Republican lawmakers in the Show-Me State have now done so, as has Attorney General Josh Hawley, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, and Republican mega-donor David Humphreys.

As for the letter and whether President Trump will call on Greitens to resign, the President’s press secretary last week said they had received the letter, calling it “very concerning.”

“I don’t have an official response at this time, but certainly (it’s) something that is very concerning and something that we are taking very seriously,”  Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.