Chairman of House panel: Lawmakers' sole duty is to determine facts behind Greitens indictment

Jay Barnes
Jay Barnes

Many lawmakers and media reports point to a new Missouri House of Representatives committee as the first step in an effort to impeach Gov. Eric Greitens - who already is facing a criminal indictment issued Feb. 22 by a St. Louis grand jury.

But state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said several times during Thursday's House debate that it's too early to talk about impeachment.

Instead, he insisted a number of times last week, including during the debate: "Our task is going to be to look at these facts and to come back to this (House) with a report based on our investigation."

Barnes will chair the new Special Investigative Committee on Oversight that the House approved Thursday by a 154-0 vote.

When Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, asked Barnes on Thursday what the process would be if the committee found facts supporting impeachment, he replied: "At this point in time, you're asking a question that gets ahead of this process, and it assumes the facts will get us there. I don't think that's necessarily true. We don't know until we talk to witnesses about what the facts are."

No committee hearings had been scheduled as of Friday evening.

The grand jury charged Greitens with felony invasion of privacy for taking a picture of a woman who was at least partially nude in such a way that the picture could be seen on a computer.

If the House were to vote to impeach the governor, the Missouri Constitution requires the state Senate to elect "a special commission of seven eminent jurists" to try the case against him.

While the grand jury's criminal charge could result in a prison sentence of up to four years, the only punishment Greitens would face from impeachment is being removed from the governor's office - if that commission convicted the governor of whatever impeachment charges the House approved.

Barnes sponsored the four-page resolution that authorized the investigative committee that Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, had named earlier in the week.

In introducing the resolution, Barnes told the House: "The task of this committee is to conduct a fair, thorough and timely investigation, and to do so without any pre-ordained results."

Later in the debate, Barnes added: "Everybody in here has heard rumors from people who proclaim that they know facts, (but) the people spreading the rumors in this building - I am pretty sure they don't know what they are talking about. There's only one way to find out, and that is to ask the actual witnesses - not to go through this rumor mill."

Approving the resolution included approving special rules the committee will follow, including:

  • Making hearings open to the public and press, except when the chair decides to close them "to hear the testimony of certain witnesses or review evidence."

Barnes told the House: "If we are taking witness testimony, the hearing is going to be closed."

He noted, in a court trial, witnesses are excluded from the courtroom so they don't hear what other witnesses say.

"But if we have a public hearing," Barnes explained, "everything a previous witness says would be reported to other potential witnesses - and that would color their testimony, based on what they had heard previous witnesses had said. I think the best way to get accurate information is to close those hearings, so that other potential witnesses don't know what previous witnesses said."

  • Preparing a transcript of the hearings, with the possibility some information - like the identity of some witnesses, testimony or evidence - is redacted.

Barnes said those redactions could include protecting some personal identifying information and "embarrassing facts that have no relevance to any official action."

  • Allowing only the committee members - and any appointed special counsel - to question witnesses.

Barnes said there are no immediate plans to hire a special counsel, although, he added, "We are in discussions about that. We are seeking nominations. But, at this point, with a purely factual investigation, I'm not sure it's necessary to have a special counsel as the committee starts it work."

  • Issuing subpoenas to witnesses through the House speaker's office, as allowed by state law, that have the same power as if they had been issued by a court.

The committee already knows about some witnesses, because they testified before the St. Louis grand jury.

"We will start with those witnesses," Barnes told the House, "and, based on their testimony, it may go to other witnesses."

The committee's other members will be free to recommend witnesses, he said.

  • Waiving the legal system's formal rules of evidence.

Barnes said that would allow the committee to take evidence without always requiring each piece of evidence be thoroughly documented.

For example, he said, the committee will ask to see the evidence the St. Louis grand jury saw, but he doesn't expect someone from the circuit attorney's office will have to authenticate each of those items.

Barnes said last week he "will not be doing any interviews about this process," and reminded a reporter: "As a separate and co-equal branch of government, our investigation is separate and apart from what any other government official is doing," including the St. Louis circuit attorney's office and their criminal investigation.

During Thursday's debate, Barnes reminded his colleagues that the committee's members have "experience in the law, law enforcement and experience in this body," and are "trusted and respected" by lawmakers.

The committee includes five Republicans and two Democrats - and has three lawyers and two with law enforcement experience among the seven.

Here are brief profiles of each member, compiled from information in the biographies posted on their individual pages online at

Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, serving as chairman

Years in the House (including 2018): 8

Barnes is an attorney, who practices in a Jefferson City law firm with his father when the Legislature isn't in session. He was appointed to chair the committee.

His district includes all of Jefferson City, except parts of the east and southeast portions, which are in state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter's district.

He previously worked as general counsel to Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, and as a policy counsel and speechwriter for then-Gov. Matt Blunt.

He is a 1998 Helias High School graduate and earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, serving as vice chairman

Years in the House (including 2018): 8

He represents Stone County and parts of Christian and Taney counties in Southwest Missouri.

Phillips served as a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper for 28 years, based in Troop D, retiring as a sergeant. He also served as the head basketball and baseball coaches and as athletic director at Hollister High School from 1973-77.

He graduated from Rolla High School in 1969 and received his bachelor's degree in physical education from the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout. He was inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

Kevin Austin, R-Springfield

Years in the House (including 2018): 6

He represents the southeastern portion of Springfield and Greene County.

A lifelong Springfield resident, Austin graduated from Glendale High School and earned his bachelor's degree in financial management from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State) in 1988. He earned a law degree in 1996 from the University of Missouri.

When the Legislature isn't in session, Austin's law practice focuses on business counseling and litigation and insurance defense.

Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs

Years in the House (including 2018): 8

She has earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's of business administration.

Lauer is the founder and owner of The Management Edge, a firm providing mediation, strategic planning and performance improvement services.

She also has served on the Blue Springs City Council.

Shaun Rhoads, R-West Plains

Years in the House (including 2018): 6

He's a 1995 graduate of West Plains High School, and later attended the Missouri Sheriff's Academy, graduating as a law enforcement officer in 2000.

Rhoads was a detective with the West Plains Police Department, working as a liaison between the West Plains R-7 school system, the Juvenile Office, the state's Division of Family Services and the police.

In 2007, he was elected to the West Plains R-7 School Board.

Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis

Years in the House (including 2018): 6

She is the assistant House minority leader. Her district includes portions of western St. Louis City and eastern St. Louis County.

When the Legislature isn't in session, her law practice includes civil litigation and domestic relations.

She graduated from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and earned her law degree in 2005 from Washington University.

Tommie Pierson Jr., D-St. Louis

Years in the House (including 2018): 2

He represents parts of St. Louis County and St. Louis City.

Pierson is a math teacher in North St. Louis County and the pastor of inStep Church.

He's a 1991 graduate of Parkway North High School and earned his bachelor's degree in applied math from Washington University in 1995.

He earned a master of arts in theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2009.

You can hear the House's archived copy of Thursday's debate on the resolution by visiting, then clicking on the "Archived Debate" link.

On the line, "2018 Legislative Session - Day Thirty-Three," click on the "Media" link. That will give you a picture of the full House and audio of the entire day's proceedings. The debate on Barnes' resolution begins at about 1:51.30.

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