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Embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens Resigns

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Missouri's governor, Eric Greitens, is resigning. He leaves Friday amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance abuses. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: Eric Greitens came to office in 2017 with huge ambition, both for himself and Missouri's Republicans. Never before had a GOP chief executive entered office with so many Republicans in the General Assembly, giving Greitens the opportunity to leave a policy mark big enough to fulfill his not-so-secret presidential ambitions. But on Tuesday afternoon, Greitens addressed reporters in his Jefferson City office as a diminished man. Defiant but somber, he ended months of legal and political drama by offering up his resignation, a move he blamed on the, quote, "forces" against him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC GREITENS: A great deal of work is left undone. The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded.

ROSENBAUM: The former decorated Navy SEAL and best-selling author will step down as Republicans who control the General Assembly call themselves into a special session for the first time ever to consider impeaching him. Despite leading a state that's transformed politically to bright red, Greitens' tenure was rocky from the start. He feuded with fellow Republicans needed to pass his priorities, once comparing them to petulant third-graders. He also relied on political groups with secret donors to attack his opponents. That bothered Republicans like Michael Hafner, a former Greitens aide who went on to work for a rival campaign in 2016.

MICHAEL HAFNER: That's something that I think people should be concerned about moving forward. And Missourians should know who is funding these campaigns.

ROSENBAUM: Still, Greitens' name was bandied about in national circles, especially since he was close to Vice President Mike Pence. But those hopes started to evaporate after he admitted to an extramarital affair in January, just following his State of the State address. By the time a legislative report came out in April where the woman accused him of sexual and physical abuse, even longtime GOP supporters like Nate Walker had enough.

NATE WALKER: I believed in the man. I thought he was a man of integrity. But now I really know that he's a phony, and he shouldn't be in office.

ROSENBAUM: Eric Greitens was charged with taking a semi-nude photo of the woman he had an affair with without her consent. While those charges were recently dropped, a special prosecutor was appointed to examine the woman's claims. And he faced charges of illegally obtaining a fundraising lists from a veterans charity he founded.

Those woes were beginning to weigh heavily on Republican political fortunes, most notably those of GOP Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is trying to unseat U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson will now take the reins of state government. And Democrats like State Senator Jamilah Nasheed hope he can unite a state that has been in turmoil.

JAMILAH NASHEED: We've had a very, very dark cloud over this state. And now it is time to begin the healing process.

ROSENBAUM: State Representative Michael Butler also has confidence that Parson will deal with the state's challenges, like underfunded roads, struggling schools and big-city crime. He says Greitens' legacy will serve as a cautionary tale.

MICHAEL BUTLER: I think that Eric Greitens will look back at this and remember that he got to be the governor of his home state in his 40s, in his first election. And he had so much power and so much ability in front of him. And yet, he squandered it.

ROSENBAUM: Instead of running for the White House someday, Greitens will become a tarnished footnote here as he leaves office in the wake of multiple scandals.

For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAMMAL HANDS' "MANSIONS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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