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Pressure grows on Alabama governor to quit

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is considering resigning his seat as early as Wednesday after a year of mounting scandal that has cost him even his closest political allies.

State lawmakers plan to begin impeachment hearings Monday, after the state Supreme Court ruled over the weekend that they could go ahead. The state Ethics Commission last week found probable cause that Bentley had broken state rules.

The impeachment proceedings come after a year of tumult for the conservative populist, who won office in 2010 after besting a field of much better-known contenders. Bentley and his wife of 50 years divorced in 2015 after she recorded several sexually suggestive phone conversations between the governor and his senior political adviser, Rebekah Mason.

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Bentley used his political position to cover up the affair, threatening staffers, firing the state’s top law enforcement official and using official vehicles to ferry Mason around the state, according to a report by Jack Sharman, a special counsel working for the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. The report found Bentley even tried to use state law enforcement officials to break off the relationship.

After the report was issued, senior Alabama Republicans, including House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, called on Bentley to resign. On Sunday, the state Republican Party’s executive committee asked Bentley to step down.

On Monday morning, the Alabama Media Group reported that Bentley has begun negotiations to step down and plead guilty to charges surrounding the case. The governor’s spokeswoman, Yasamie August, told The Hill in an email that Bentley is not involved in those talks.

A back-bench state representative and dermatologist, Bentley mounted what looked like a futile run for governor in 2010. Bentley made the runoff by a margin of just over 200 votes, out of nearly half a million cast, then rode the Tea Party wave to beat out a more establishment candidate, now-Rep. Bradley Byrne (R), to claim the Republican nomination. He coasted to the governorship over the Democratic agriculture commissioner that November.

Bentley’s tenure was marked by conservative achievements and fights with a Republican-led legislature dominated by establishment figures he ran against. The first hints of scandal came more than a year ago, when Bentley fired Spencer Collier, the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Collier said later he had been fired after refusing to cover up the affair between Bentley and Mason.