COLUMBIA, Mo. — Following a Politico report on Republicans’ widespread frustration with Josh Hawley’s Senate campaign, the Springfield News-Leader has outlined how Hawley has also been failing to do his job as Attorney General. Months after Hawley cleared Governor Greitens in his use of text message-deleting app Confide, a lawsuit against the Governor has yielded more answers than Hawley’s investigation “in large part because the lawyer working the case didn’t shy away from asking questions.”
An ongoing lawsuit has elicited more answers about Gov. Eric Greitens’ secret communications than Attorney General Josh Hawley obtained, in large part because the lawyer working the case didn’t shy away from asking questions.
Mark Pedroli, the attorney handling the lawsuit, provided the News-Leader with dozens of pages of requests for information and written responses from Greitens’ legal counsel. The lawsuit alleges that by using an app that sends self-destructing messages, the governor’s office may have violated the Missouri Sunshine Law.
In response to most questions regarding his communication habits, Greitens wouldn’t offer a yes or a no answer. But even his non-answers offer more detail than was available in Hawley’s probe, in which investigators were apprehensive that Greitens would cite a privilege that doesn’t exist in Missouri law to avoid questions.
Hawley’s investigation was released in early March — by Greitens’ office — and found no evidence of wrongdoing among staffers in the governor’s office. A spokesman for Greitens called the report “thorough” and said it “recognizes that we have gone above and beyond what the law requires in the interest of transparency.”
…Hawley’s office says that it didn’t believe it had enough evidence for a Confide lawsuit, which would have given the attorney general’s office the power to dig deeper into Greitens’ secret communications.
But the current Confide lawsuit, filed by a private attorney in the St. Louis area on behalf of the Missouri Sunshine Project, has survived so far, and it has arguably turned up more information than the attorney general’s effort.
“I had a strong feeling that there was grounds to file a lawsuit,” said Pedroli, “and that was proven true when the governor’s motion to dismiss was denied.”
…Greitens and his attorneys didn’t definitively say whether Greitens used Confide to discuss his gubernatorial campaign or to communicate with any political donors, people working with nonprofits or political action committees, specifically including A New Missouri, a nonprofit formed by Greitens’ campaign aides to advocate for the governor’s agenda.
…”They’re willing to admit or deny the things that they believe help their interest, and they refuse to answer anything else,” Pedroli said. “I think the refusal to admit or deny relevant questions about the use of Confide is troubling.”
…Hawley’s investigators did not ask to speak with Greitens, the News-Leader previously reported.
That decision arose after informal discussions that led Hawley’s office to believe the governor would invoke a doctrine of executive privilege that does not appear to be spelled out in state statute, case law or the Missouri Constitution.
Executive privilege “doesn’t exist in Missouri as a matter of law,” said Pedroli, the attorney who filed the requests for information, in an email. “If the governor asserts the privilege to conceal documents and/or communications, we will oppose it.”
Instead, Hawley’s investigators spoke with several of the governor’s senior staff and took them at their word when those who admitted to using Confide to discuss government business said they didn’t send self-deleting messages about anything substantial. Messages that are “transitory” in nature, like scheduling a meeting, don’t have to be retained.