NEW YORK — The FBI recently opened an inquiry into Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, two US officials told CNN, as he fights an allegation of blackmail and faces calls to resign just a year into his job.
While the FBI has not commented on the existence of any inquiry or formal investigation into Greitens, the St. Louis circuit attorney’s office announced last week that it is investigating Greitens’ conduct following an explosive story that forced the Republican governor to acknowledge having had an extramarital affair and confront an allegation of blackmail.
James Bennett, Greitens’ lawyer, told CNN on Friday that the governor “has not been contacted at any time by the FBI, and we are not aware of any interest by the FBI in this personal matter that took place years ago.” Bennett added that they are also not aware of any interest by the FBI in matters unrelated to the affair.
“It is the long-standing policy of the US Department of Justice that the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” an FBI spokeswoman told CNN.
The scope of the FBI inquiry or when it began was not immediately clear. The FBI will at times begin an inquiry as a preliminary step before deciding whether an investigation is warranted.
On Thursday, a 22-year-old man who said he volunteered to help with Greitens’ transition team in December 2016 approached CNN to say he was interviewed by the FBI in November 2017.
Eli Karabell told CNN in a phone interview that his conversations with two FBI agents lasted about an hour. He did not offer specifics on what he told the agents, and it is not clear whether the conversation Karabell said he had with the FBI was related to the open inquiry that the two US officials confirmed to CNN.
Al Watkins, a Missouri attorney that Karabell retained this week, told CNN that he separately confirmed with the FBI that the bureau interviewed Karabell.
The news of an FBI inquiry into Greitens comes one week after a local TV station in Missouri broke the news that Greitens had an extramarital affair. The ex-husband of the woman alleged to have had an affair with Greitens said Greitens blackmailed his ex-wife during a sexual encounter.
In a recording obtained by CNN affiliate KMOV, and later also obtained by CNN, a woman is heard saying, “He used some sort of tape, I don’t what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me.”
She goes on to say that Greitens said to her, “‘You’re never going to mention my name,’ otherwise there will be pictures of me (the woman) everywhere.”
Greitens has acknowledged having had an extramarital affair before he became governor, but has vehemently denied blackmail.
Watkins also represents the woman’s ex-husband. He told CNN this week that he provided law enforcement with multiple hours of privately recorded conversations between his client and his ex-wife about her affair with Greitens.
Karabell told CNN on Thursday he did not know whether the interview the FBI conducted with him was in any way related to the latest revelations about Greitens’ extramarital affair.