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Investigation into former Missouri governor who resigned finds 'no evidence of any wrongdoing'

Updated 5:27 PM ET, Thu February 13, 2020

(CNN) - A Missouri panel "found no evidence of any wrongdoing" by former Gov. Eric Greitens following a nearly 18-month investigation into allegations of misconduct by his 2016 gubernatorial campaign, according to a report released Thursday, even as investigators faulted his campaign for failing to report legal in-kind contributions by two groups.

Those contributions came in the form of television and radio ads that attacked Greitens' rivals in the Republican primary, funded by the outside group LG PAC, and a series of polls conducted in 2017 on behalf of the Greitens campaign but paid for by his not-for-profit entity, A New Missouri.

As part of the Missouri Ethics Commission's ruling, Greitens agreed that his campaign would amend its reports to reflect the in-kind contributions and pay roughly $178,000 in fees to the commission.

But while Greitens bears ultimate responsibility for his campaign's errors, the commission said, it "found no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Eric Greitens, individually, and no evidence that Governor Greitens knew of the two reporting violations."

In a statement to CNN, Greitens said he felt "vindicated" by the commission's ruling.

"It's good to have been exonerated, and I'm glad to have been vindicated," Greitens said. "I'm grateful that the truth has won out, but this was never really about me -- they launched this attack because we were fighting for the people of Missouri."

The commission's report marks the end of a bitter chapter for Greitens, who stepped down in 2018 facing legal jeopardy and threat of impeachment, stemming from lurid revelations of his 2015 affair with a woman known in court documents as "K.S."

The woman testified under oath in 2018, telling Missouri lawmakers that she felt forced into sexual acts with Greitens, and that he had threatened to release explicit photos of her if she revealed their relationship.

Greitens admitted to the affair, but denied ever engaging in blackmail, coercion or acts of sexual violence. At the time, he maintained that the allegations against him were part of a "political witch hunt" perpetrated by his enemies.

Still, with many lawmakers of his own party turning against him, and facing criminal charges in St. Louis, the political weight became too much for Greitens to bear. He stepped down in May 2018, and the charges against him -- which the St. Louis circuit attorney said would not have been serious enough to merit jail time -- were dropped.

Since then, the landscape has shifted considerably. In June, the lead investigator in the Greitens case out of St. Louis, William Tisaby, was indicted on seven felony charges, including for lying in a deposition about his interview with K.S. The St. Louis circuit attorney, meanwhile, has been under investigation by a special prosecutor for her handling of the case; she has sued the city, alleging a racist conspiracy designed to oust her.

The Missouri Ethics Commission investigation was the last remaining question mark for Greitens, stemming from a complaint filed by state Rep. Jay Barnes, the lead Republican investigating the governor prior to his resignation.

Barnes had publicly claimed that Greitens' not-for-profit, A New Missouri, amounted to a "criminal enterprise" -- and had filed a complaint in July 2018 with 235 pages of supporting documentation, alleging improper campaign contributions and a scheme to conceal donors. Aside from the instances of unreported in-kind contributions that were confirmed Thursday by the commission, however, the other most scandalous claims were dismissed.

One complaint, that Greitens had commenced campaign activities before establishing his committee, was rejected because it fell outside of the commission's scope, which was limited to possible violations within two years prior to the complaint. In assessing the other allegations, however, the commission found no evidence of violations.

As all of this has played out, Greitens has kept a low profile. He returned to the Navy in April as a reservist, and he has been working on a new book, according to a source close to him. According to the source, the book will build on the theme of Greitens' bestselling 2016 book, "Resilience," with a sharper focus on faith.

With the investigations now behind him, a political comeback is not out of the question for the former Navy SEAL and former Rhodes scholar, the source said. But there are no immediate plans in place, and Greitens is unlikely to run in 2020, the source added.


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