Expert says Greitens' political future in serious trouble

A political scientist said Gov. Eric Greitens' toxic relationship with legislators could leave him isolated even if allegations of assaulting and blackmailing a mistress prove false. (File)

Allegations of blackmail and assault by Gov. Eric Greitens could imperil his ability to enact policy or move to higher office, a political scientist said Friday.

Columbia College Prof. Terry Smith said Greitens' relationships with state lawmakers, particularly in the Missouri Senate, already are nearly toxic. He said any national ambitions Greitens had "are history."

"My question to Gov. Greitens would be, what were you thinking?" he said. "Were you really thinking that you could do this and somebody wouldn't have a record of it that they would be willing to, for political or other reasons, make available to the media?"

Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair following a Wednesday night report by St. Louis TV station KMOV. The report claimed he took a photo of the woman during their first encounter and threatened to use it against her. Greitens' attorney called the claim outrageous and false. Greitens has also denied allegations that he slapped the unnamed woman on another occasion. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has launched a formal investigation into the matter.

If the allegations against the governor are correct and he faces criminal charges, Smith said Greitens' position would become almost untenable. Although the governor's party holds supermajorities in both legislative chambers, Smith said Greitens has few friends, so impeachment cannot be ruled out. If investigators find no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Smith said the governor could ride out the storm for a while, but he would become politically isolated and potentially ineffective.

"What's in the best interests of the state of Missouri? I think that calculus is going to have to be confronted at some point," he said.

Smith said his advice to Greitens would be to ask political and business leaders what to do, particularly on the question of whether to remain in office.

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