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Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is making his return — to the Navy

Former Gov. Eric Greitens delivers the keynote address at the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association 27th Annual Police Officer Memorial Prayer Breakfast on April 25, 2018, at the St. Charles Convention Center. The Navy confirmed this week that Greitens had been approved to return to active status as a general unrestricted line officer.

LAURIE SKRIVAN/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH/TNS

By JASON HANCOCK, LINDSAY WISE, STEVE VOCKRODT AND TARA COPP | The Kansas City Star | Published: May 23, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Tribune News Service) — Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has told friends and supporters in recent weeks that he plans to deploy with the Navy to the Middle East in the fall and hopes his fourth book will be published later this year.

Earlier this month Greitens attended a gathering in Franklin County organized by longtime GOP activist Robbie Brouk, where he shared his short-term plans regarding his return to active Navy service and forthcoming book.

Greitens has also shared his plans with others in meetings across the state over the past month, multiple sources told The Kansas City Star.

In 2017, Greitens, 45, was put on inactive status with the Standby Reserve, which allowed him to retain his commission but not to accrue time served to apply toward retirement. The status comes with no pay and does not make him eligible for promotion.

He applied for a transfer to selected reserves in April 2019 and late Wednesday the Navy confirmed that he had been approved to return to active status as a general unrestricted line officer. That means he is authorized to return as a SEAL.

“His transfer was approved,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica McNulty of Navy Recruiting Command Public Affairs. She said Greitens is now affiliated with the Navy Operational Support Center in St Louis.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published Greitens’ previous three books, told the Star it does not have anything new from Greitens under contract.

Greitens could not immediately be reached for comment.

Greitens, a Republican, resigned from office a year ago next week, succumbing to an avalanche of scandals and criminal charges — including accusations that he engaged in violent and coercive sexual misconduct during a 2015 affair.

Despite his exit in disgrace from the governor’s office, the specter of his possible return to public life looms over Missouri politics.

Greitens has been spotted around the state and in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks, meeting with former staff and political operatives.

His still-active gubernatorial campaign spent roughly $15,000 during the first three months of 2019 on staff salaries and reimbursements for travel, meals and other expenses. The campaign also paid nearly $20,000 worth of reimbursement of older travel expenses to Jimmy Soni, a longtime Greitens friend and former communications adviser.

But his confidantes told the Star they haven’t had any indication from Greitens that he’s eyeing a return to politics in 2020.

Brouk said the picnic gathering where he mentioned his Navy plans was a private party with friends and relatives. She was surprised when Greitens agreed to attend, and said the occasion was “absolutely nonpolitical.” As far as Brouk knows, Greitens “is not looking at anything political” in the near future.

But she said there’s a faction of grassroots Republican activists who feel Greitens was unfairly pushed out and who would like to see him run for elective office again.

“I do think that’s wishful thinking from people in Missouri,” Brouk said. “I think there’s just rumors all over that people wish he would run, and time will tell … Our election was stolen from us.”

Diane Neff, managing director of America First MO PAC, said she had heard that Greitens was thinking about a run for Senate, possibly for Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat in 2022. She dismissed the idea of a primary challenge to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in 2020.

Greitens “has enemies in Jefferson City that would really work against him. This would be more of clean slate for him,” Neff said of a possible Senate run. She said he still has support among grassroots conservatives in the state.

“People think he was run out of Jefferson City and they don’t like that,” Neff said. “And Blunt’s popularity is waning.”

As evidence that Blunt could be vulnerable, Neff pointed to the backlash he received from some conservatives after he voted to block President Donald Trump’s use of emergency powers to build a border wall.

Greitens for Missouri, which was created for his 2016 gubernatorial run, filed an amendment with the Missouri Ethics Commission in May 2018 re-focusing its aim on the 2020 GOP primary for governor.

That tactic is not unusual for a dormant committee, as many former elected officials maintain campaign accounts for years after they leave office.

Jay Nixon, Greitens’ predecessor, spent $85,239 through his campaign committee for about a year before closing it down. The expenses ranged from donations, hotel and catering fees, software and a portrait.

Matt Blunt, a one-term governor before Nixon, kept spending through his committee for about five years after leaving office until it wound down in 2014. It spent money on legal fees, public communications, accounting and political donations. It spent $179,657 in those five years, even though Blunt never again sought public office.

Neither Blunt’s nor Nixon’s committee spent as much as Greitens’ committee spent in the last quarter alone, when Greitens for Missouri reported spending $240,000, mostly on legal fees.

State law requires that candidates only spend campaign cash on campaign matters. Office holders can spend it on official duties.

If Greitens ever does attempt a return to Missouri politics, the allegations of illegal conduct that brought him down will certainly resurface.

Greitens was elected in 2016 on a campaign focused on rooting corruption out of Jefferson City.

He was forced from office a year and a half later under threat of impeachment and further criminal prosecution over a series of scandals that enveloped his administration.

Greitens was charged with two felonies in St. Louis County — invasion of privacy and computer tampering.

The first felony charge stemmed from accusations by a woman with whom Greitens had an affair in 2015.

The woman said under oath both to prosecutors and a legislative committee considering impeachment that Greitens taped her hands to pull-up rings in his basement, blindfolded her, spit water into her mouth, ripped open her shirt, pulled down her pants and took a photo without her consent.

She says he also threatened to make the photos public if she ever told anyone about their encounter.

Greitens denied any wrongdoing and the charge was eventually dropped, with the prosecutor citing statutes of limitation and potentially missing evidence.

The second involved allegations that he illegally used a donor list from veterans charity he founded to jumpstart his political career.

That charge was also dropped as part of a plea deal that forced Greitens from office.

Hancock reported from Jefferson City, Wise and Copp from Washington and Vockrodt from Kansas City.

©2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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