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Graphic testimony of sexual relationship deepens crisis for Missouri governor

Missouri’s senate majority leader called on Gov. Eric Greitens to resign on Thursday. That comes a day after a the release of a report detailing graphic testimony by a woman who had an affair with Greitens, in which said she said he spanked, slapped, groped and shoved her during sexual encounters. John Yang talks with Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the past 24 hours, the crisis confronting Missouri's Governor Eric Greitens over a sexual relationship has deepened significantly.

    John Yang has the details.

  • John Yang:

    Judy, today, Missouri Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe became the highest-ranking Republican to call on his party's governor to resign.

    It comes the day after a special legislative committee released a report detailing the graphic nine-hour testimony of the woman who acknowledges having an affair with Greitens. She says he spanked, slapped, groped and shoved her during sexual encounters that sometimes left her crying and fearful.

    Yesterday, before the release of the report, Greitens said the extramarital affair was entirely consensual.

  • Eric Greitens:

    This was a private mistake that has nothing to do with governing and shouldn't be about politics, but people are turning that personal mistake into a political spectacle and telling new lies about it.

    Let's call this what it is: a political witch-hunt.

  • John Yang:

    Greitens has been indicted for felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a photo of the woman in a compromising position and threatening to release it if she talked about their relationship. His trial is to begin next month.

    We're joined by Tony Messenger, a columnist for The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.

    Tony, thanks for joining us.

    Late this afternoon, the governor released a statement that raised questions about whether or not he had slapped her. What can you tell us about this?

  • Tony Messenger:

    Well, the testimony from the woman before the House committee was quite clear that he had slapped her more than once, that he had been very physical with her.

    And she answered to a question, was he trying to hurt you? And she said, no, I believe he was trying to claim me.

    The governor's statement today is relatively generic. He's saying he didn't slap her relating to one incident. I'm not sure which incident he's talking about. His statements have generally been very generic in context. And so I don't know exactly what he's denying at this point.

  • John Yang:

    The governor didn't testify before this committee. He didn't provide evidence of any kind before the committee. This affair has been known since January. How did this report, released last night, change the atmosphere, change the circumstances of what's going on?

  • Tony Messenger:

    It was shocking.

    When he was first indicted, there were a few people who came out, Republicans and Democrats, who called for him to resign. Now you have most of the top politicians in the state, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Attorney General Josh Hawley, Mike Kehoe, who you mentioned, many Republicans lawmakers in both the Senate and House, calling for his resignation.

    And one of the key statements from Attorney General Josh Hawley — excuse — me indicated that he believes there is legal grounds for impeachment. That really changed the dynamics, I believe, of this discussion.

  • John Yang:

    We should also note that, this fall, you have got a Senate election, Claire McCaskill running for reelection, could be pivotal in who controls the Senate. Is that having an effect on what's going on?

    Josh Hawley, of course, is one of the Republican candidates for the nomination.

  • Tony Messenger:

    I believe it is.

    Keep in mind, there is also a private lawsuit against the governor brought by two Saint Louis attorneys, Mark Pedroli and Ben Sansone. And in that lawsuit, they're seeking to depose the governor. And Josh Hawley was also investigating that situation.

    And before the report came out, he basically whitewashed whether or not the governor's office violated sunshine law. Now he is betraying — or showing himself to be strong again in terms of calling for impeachment.

    I believe the Senate election is having a direct impact on his actions.

  • John Yang:

    The woman's testimony about their encounter, her first encounter Governor Greitens — or he wasn't governor yet — makes it sound something less than welcome, certainly, to say the least.

    What did she say when the investigative committee asked her why she continued to have contact with him after that?

  • Tony Messenger:

    She said — and I described this in one of my columns — she was afraid that she wasn't going to be allowed to leave his basement. She was scared. She was fearful. She was crying. She was shaking.

    And he grabbed her in a bear hug, lowered her down to the ground, and then, depending on your interpretation of what happened there, either sexually assaulted her or engaged in some sort of sex with her.

    It was, to me, the most shocking part of the statement, because it changes the entire dynamics from the consensual affair that the governor has been talking about, to something that looks much more like sexual predation.

  • John Yang:

    Tony Messenger of The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, thanks so much.

  • Tony Messenger:

    Thank you.

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