Residents of Missouri are watching up close a phenomenon that in many ways replicates the ones Americans are watching unfold in Washington.
In both instances, prosecutors are pursuing a sitting Republican executive with criminal or potentially criminal charges where no obvious crime has been committed.
The strategy in Missouri is becoming more obvious. The prosecutor, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, is playing almost exclusively to the media.
Although Donald Trump carried Missouri by 19 points in 2016, the state media are as predictably liberal as the national media.
The case against Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is almost as pathetic as the case against Donald Trump, but those who consume the state’s mainstream media do not know this and may never know it.
Gardner can continue to pursue her case against Greitens in part because the conservative internet and talk-radio presence is relatively weaker locally than it is on a national scale.
That said, the revelations of the past few weeks in the Greitens case are approaching a Mike Nifong level of embarrassment for Gardner.
Indeed, so shocking are these revelations that Gardner had to ask the judge in the case to impose a gag order on the defense lest the truth about her case be known as the trial approaches.
In the way of background, Greitens has admittedly done enough wrong, at least by Republican standards, that a resignation would not be out of order. A married father, he had a consensual affair with a woman (K.S.) two years before he took office.
In January 2018, a St. Louis TV station broke the story that Greitens allegedly threatened K.S. with revenge porn if she ever went public. He was said to have made this threat on their first “date.”
The accusation was based on a recording secretly made by K.S.’s now ex-husband.
Said KS on the tape, “I didn’t even know. I was just numb. I just stood there and didn’t f—ing know. He stepped back, and I saw a flash through the blindfold, and he said you’re never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere.”
Greitens admitted the affair but denied taking a photo or making a threat. The story would likely have ended his career had not Gardner stepped in and charged Greitens with criminal “invasion of privacy.”
The charge made little sense from the beginning. K.S., who initiated the affair, had no interest in pursuing the criminal case.
Said defense attorney Ed Dowd, “No normal citizen would be charged with a felony when no victim has ever complained of a crime, the police have never been involved, and no evidence has been produced.”
With the media in her corner, Gardner has felt emboldened to play by rules of her own making. She circumvented St. Louis PD by hiring an out-of-state PI who had committed bigamy and lied to the FBI about it.
Gardner then hired an out-of-state legal counsel despite the fact that he could not serve as a prosecutor while serving as a defense counsel in other cases.
More troubling, the attorney’s generous contract allowed him to hire other lawyers at his own expense, meaning that Greitens’ political enemies could financially contribute to his prosecution.
Then there was the question of evidence. The state must prove that a photograph was first taken and then transmitted. If there is no photograph, there is no transmission, and as Dowd has said bluntly, “There is no photograph.”
It gets worse. As defense attorneys argued in an April 8 motion, “K.S. acknowledged that for months after the alleged ‘invasion of privacy,’ K.S. continued to see the defendant willingly.”
The defense also notes, “K.S. now admits that in June of 2015, she transmitted images via Facetime of herself to the defendant while she was in a state of partial nudity.” This was three months after the incident that led to the “invasion of privacy” charge.
Stranger still is that K.S. may have conceived the photo episode in a dream. Said she in her deposition, “I haven’t talked about it because I don’t know if it’s because I’m remembering it through a dream.”
If that were not enough, the state cannot produce a video recording of an earlier interview with K.S. According to the defense, Gardner’s office is claiming that the “the videotape machine did not work.” Prosecutors have not provided an explanation of how it could possibly have malfunctioned.
None of this matters to the state media. The Kansas City Star, for instance, is calling for Greitens’ impeachment, claiming that what he did to K.S. was “coercive on its face” and an “assault.”
The Star’s call to impeach Greitens is as absurd as the question from CNN’s April Ryan as to whether President Trump has considered stepping down.
Ryan could ask that question because she, like the Star, has chosen not to know the frailty of the case against the accused.
What the media do not know, they do not share. The residents of Gardner’s St. Louis still believe the “hands up, don’t shoot” nonsense the media promulgated after the death of Michael Brown.
For the time being at least, the courts still work better than the media. Darren Wilson was exonerated in the shooting of Michael Brown. George Zimmerman was acquitted after the media convicted him of killing Trayvon Martin.
“The governor,” says Dowd, “will be found innocent.” The problem, of course, is that the mainstream media will never really acknowledge his innocence.