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Continuing Troubles For The Missouri Governor

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's go to St. Louis, Mo., where a judge has made a ruling the upcoming trial of the governor of Missouri. The ruling is that the trial of Eric Greitens can go forward. The charges against him followed allegations of sexual coercion that have put his political career in jeopardy. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: Missouri has been mired in political crisis since January after Republican Governor Greitens acknowledged an extramarital affair. The developments quickly gained steam. In February, he was indicted for photographing the woman he had an extramarital affair with without her consent. And last week, a detailed investigation by the Missouri House painted the former Navy SEAL as being sexually and physically abusive in the affair. While the governor admitted to the affair, he strenuously denied the woman's characterizations of his behavior. And he's made it clear for months that he's not going to resign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC GREITENS: This is exactly like what's happening with the witch hunts in Washington, D.C. - smearing, lying and attacking people who want to change how things are done is wrong in Washington and it's wrong in Missouri.

ROSENBAUM: But there's plenty of evidence that Greitens' political standing among Missourians is diminished. The scandal marks a tailspin for a politician considered a rising star in the Republican Party who had presidential ambitions. Governor Greitens may now be facing a legislature controlled by his own party that will seek to impeach him. That's largely because of last week's explosive report that contained graphic allegations, including that he coerced the woman into unwanted sex acts in his basement. Even though Greitens denies the woman's claims, lawmakers like Democratic Senator Gina Walsh find her story credible.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GINA WALSH: It is extremely heinous what came out in that report, and I have no faith in that man.

ROSENBAUM: Then two days ago, another bombshell dropped - Attorney General Josh Hawley, himself a Republican, revealed there's enough evidence to charge Greitens with a felony for illegally obtaining a fundraising list from a veterans charity the governor cofounded. Hawley is running for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, and observers say he may be worried that the governor's woes will hurt his chances. All of this incessant political drama is exhausting for longtime GOP activist Chris Grahn-Howard. He says Missouri Republicans are divided between supporting their governor and urging him to get out of office.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS GRAHN-HOWARD: I don't know how much more water he can take on and remain viable.

ROSENBAUM: With Governor Greitens standing firm against resigning, his poll numbers have plummeted, especially among female voters. One of his largest political donors abandoned him. And as GOP political consultant Gregg Keller noted, it's not just Attorney General Josh Hawley who is worried about the scandal's possible effect at the polls.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREGG KELLER: It is the first off-year of having our guy in the White House. Historically, it's not a good time. And you can't make any argument right now other than Greitens is a big drag on Republicans.

ROSENBAUM: So far, there's little proof that the governor is concerned about what his fellow politicians think about him, even as they weigh whether to call a special session later this spring to debate impeaching him. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEWARE OF SAFETY'S "HUSBANDS AND HANGMEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.