Embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is already facing calls to resign over an extramarital affair and abuse allegations, was accused Tuesday by the state's attorney general of obtaining a charity donor list without permission.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced that his office had "uncovered evidence of wrongdoing" by the governor that he could be charged or prosecuted for related to an investigation into a veterans charity Greitens founded.
Hawley told reporters at a news conference that his office had found evidence that the governor obtained an electronic donor list from the charity The Mission Continues without permission and used the internal list for "political fundraising."
"If proven, these acts could amount to the unauthorized taking and use of property -- in this case electronic property. Under Missouri law, this is known as computer tampering and given the value of the list in question, it is a felony," Hawley said.
Hawley, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the US Senate race challenging incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, said the decision to charge Greitens is ultimately that of St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner, the local prosecutor in the place where the purported criminal acts were committed, and he stressed that the deadline of the statute of limitations is fast approaching.
The attorney general's office has turned over all the evidence to Gardner's office, Hawley added. Susan Ryan, a spokeswoman for Gardner's office, said the office is reviewing the evidence and declined to comment further.
Jim Martin, an attorney for Greitens, denied any wrongdoing.
"In fact, there's nothing close to wrongdoing. Eric built The Mission Continues from scratch, and he helped thousands of veterans by doing so. The Attorney General held a completely frivolous and inappropriate press conference on a non-issue," Martin said in a statement.
Hawley opened the inquiry into The Mission Continues in March, and he said Tuesday that the probe is ongoing.
Greitens, an Iraq veteran, founded The Mission Continues in 2007 but left the charity in 2014. Questions have been raised about his ties to the charity since at least October 2016, when The Associated Press reported that he had raised nearly $2 million for his campaign from donors who also gave significant amounts to The Mission Continues.
The charity said in a statement that it is "fully cooperating" with Hawley's office and does not engage in political activities, adding that it did not promote Greitens' political career.
"The Mission Continues did not provide, nor authorize the use of, our donors' information to any persons or groups for political/campaign purposes," the group said in a statement. "We appreciate that AG Hawley has recognized that the evidence fully supports that The Mission Continues did not authorize the use of any donor information for political purposes."
McCaskill's campaign slammed Hawley for "gross incompetence" in not investigating the case sooner and accused the attorney general of soft-pedaling the case out of loyalty to a fellow Republican.
"We're glad that Hawley has come out of hiding to acknowledge the existing evidence of criminal behavior of the governor," McCaskill's campaign said in a statement Tuesday, adding, "The only reason the statute of limitations is now a problem in this case is because Hawley was trying to protect his friend and large donor for as long as possible."
Tuesday's announcement comes as Greitens faces a first-degree felony invasion of privacy charge in St. Louis for allegedly taking a partial nude photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair and transmitting it.
Hawley called on Greitens to resign after the release of a Missouri state House committee's graphic report that contained allegations Greitens engaged in non-consensual sexual activity and violence against the woman.
Greitens has denied the allegations and called the report "incomplete."
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