You may as well accept it now: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens will never testify under oath in court.
He cannot keep his story straight and it will not stand up to cross-examination under oath.
Greitens will at trial invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
And Greitens’ attorneys and public relations team will continue and intensify their attacks on his victim, who will by trial have testified four times under oath (grand jury testimony; grueling nine-hour deposition by Greitens’ attorneys; sworn testimony before bipartisan House investigative committee that found her credible along with two of her friends who testified under oath that she told them about the 2015 events at the time; and her trial testimony).
Keep in mind: if Greitens wanted to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he could have submitted to a voluntary sworn deposition from Day One. Instead, he has not answered the basic question: “Did you take a picture?” He has not denied specific vile acts his victim testified about under oath. He has hidden from journalists and relied on dark money from undisclosed donors to spray vitriol and attack others.
Greitens has not testified under oath because he cannot testify under oath, lest he get tripped up by the truth and commit perjury.
Greitens will take the Fifth Amendment because he, his attorneys and PR team know that if he goes under oath, he could be asked about not only the affair and its sordid details but also about other subjects with potential criminal legal exposure.
To be sure, Greitens is talking — about what he wants to talk about. He read a statement attacking his fellow Republicans who have super-majorities in both legislative chambers, absurdly accusing them of a political witch hunt.
But in court, under oath, the Fifth Amendment is not a buffet whereby you can bypass the broccoli and head straight for the prime rib. If you try to speak PR points from the witness stand under oath, you must also take other questions under oath, and Greitens will not take that risk.
Greitens will never testify under oath in his trial.
Republican House members who are using as cover “he needs his day in court” (and are for once, in comic irony, showing deference to one of the city of St. Louis juries they usually decry as doormen at a “judicial hellhole”) will never hear Greitens answer direct questions under oath on the witness stand.
The strategy is to attack the victim and mount a rifle-shot defense that absent the famous photo of his victim, he must be acquitted and should not be impeached.
But the Missouri Constitution, Article VII, Section 1, establishes a different standard for legislative impeachment of a governor.
A governor may be impeached for acts of “misconduct” and “moral turpitude.”
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously stated for his threshold for identifying obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), “I know it when I see it.”
Given its bipartisan committee investigation that found credible the victim and other witnesses in the Greitens matter, members of the Missouri House know “misconduct” and “moral turpitude” when they see it.
The legislature and the judiciary are separate branches of Missouri government from the executive, each with specific constitutionally empowered duties and responsibilities.
Members of the House and Senate must understand these duties and responsibilities, and heed the inscription in the Capitol:
“Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.”
By Scott Charton
Scott Charton is a retired Jefferson City bureau chief and political writer for The Associated Press who now is a corporate consultant in Columbia. He directed AP’s 1994 coverage of the impeachment of the Missouri Secretary of State.