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Missouri governor faces growing pressure to resign over sex scandal

(Reuters) - Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, charged with criminal invasion of privacy in connection with an admitted extramarital affair, faced mounting pressure to resign on Thursday after lawmakers presented detailed allegations of abuse and blackmail from the woman involved.

FILE PHOTO: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens appears in a police booking photo in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., February 22, 2018. St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept./Handout via REUTERS

A group of Republican state senators asked U.S. President Donald Trump to intervene in the “crisis,” and a major campaign contributor of the Republican governor called for his ouster a day after a special investigative panel of the Missouri House of Representatives released its report on the scandal.

Greitens on Thursday denounced the document as a one-sided narrative that he said omitted key video evidence proving his innocence.

The governor also accused prosecutors in his criminal case of keeping that evidence - a taped deposition of the woman and related notes - hidden from defense lawyers until just after the House report was made public.

In court on Thursday, Greitens’ lawyers moved for dismissal of the case on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat whom the governor has accused of abusing her authority for political reasons.

Prosecutors have countered in court that technical glitches with the video kept them from furnishing the recording sooner. They also argued that neither the delay nor the contents of the tape itself should prevent the case from going to trial.

Greitens was indicted in February on a single felony count of invasion of privacy, charging that he took a photo of the alleged victim in a state of undress without her consent, then made it accessible by computer to use as retaliation should she divulge their relationship.

The alleged offense occurred in March 2015, the year before Greitens, a married father of two and a former U.S. Navy SEAL commando, was elected governor. If convicted, he would face up to four years in prison.

Greitens has admitted to a months-long affair with the woman, a St. Louis hair stylist identified only as “K.S.” in the indictment and as “Witness 1” in Wednesday’s House report. But he has denied ever blackmailing her or engaging in other criminal wrongdoing.

On Thursday, he specifically denied allegations of physical abuse that the woman presented under oath to the House committee and detailed in the panel’s report, including her accounts of being slapped and coerced into sexual acts by Greitens.

He said those allegations “will be refuted by the facts” contained in her videotaped deposition to prosecutors “and other evidence that will be subjected to the rigors of courtroom analysis.” The trial is set to begin next month.

Nevertheless, the report escalated a brewing revolt among members of Greitens’ own party, clearly concerned about political fallout as Republicans face what is expected to be a tough campaign season for the upcoming November elections.

Within hours, Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Claire McCaskill, joined a growing number of Missouri politicians from both parties calling for Greitens to step down. McCaskill herself also called for Greitens’ ouster.

On Thursday, three Republican state senators - Rob Schaaf, Doug Libla and Gary Romine - signed a letter to Trump urging him to intervene by urging Greitens to quit in order to “save Missouri from months of pain and shame dealing with all this.”

Libla said the letter, dated April 12, was being prepared to be sent during the day.

One of Greitens’ biggest individual political donors, David Humphreys, the chief executive of a Joplin, Missouri-based roofing and building products manufacturer, also called for the governor’s resignation, saying he was “deeply disappointed” by the contents of the House report.

Humphreys contributed $2.28 million to Greitens’ campaign in 2016, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler