Idaho Sen. Larry Craig to stay in office pending ruling in bathroom sex sting case
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
WASHINGTON (AP) ” Sen. Larry Craig said Wednesday he will remain in office while a Minnesota judge considers his bid to withdraw a guilty plea, overturning the senator’s previous statements of intent to resign by Sunday.
The Idaho Republican said he will stay in office “for now,” but people close to him said he will remain until the judge rules. Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter said he probably won’t rule on the request until next month.
Craig, who originally had planned to seek a third term next year, pleaded guilty in August to disorderly conduct following a June 11 sting operation in a men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.
Craig’s comments Wednesday were greeted with chilly silence from Senate Republican leaders who have made clear they wish he would step down and let Idaho’s GOP governor name a replacement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he had nothing to add to previous statements in which he said he thought Craig made the proper decision on Sept. 1, when he announced his intention to resign by the month’s end.
“Today was a major step in the legal effort to clear my name,” Craig said in a statement Wednesday. “The court has not issued a ruling on my motion to withdraw my guilty plea. For now, I will continue my work in the U.S. Senate for Idaho.”
He later told reporters in the Capitol he had nothing to add.
Craig did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in Minneapolis before Porter. His lawyer, Bill Martin of Washington, acknowledged the difficulty of getting the guilty plea withdrawn, saying it is “near impossible, and it should be.” But he said Craig’s conduct was not criminal.
Prosecutor Christopher Renz said the timing of Craig’s decision to withdraw his plea was political. Craig has said he panicked after being arrested, in part because an Idaho newspaper had been pursuing claims that he is gay. Craig has said he is not gay.
Craig “sat and was able to think about it a thousand miles away at his apartment on the Potomac,” Renz said at the hearing. “He called me about it” and could have called others if he needed advice.
Minnesota law allows guilty pleas to be withdrawn if a “manifest injustice” is shown. The term is not defined in law, leaving it to judges to decide.
When the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported the arrest in late August, some GOP colleagues urged Craig to step down. He signaled plans to do so, but left the door open with vague statements about hoping to clear his name.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., noted Wednesday that Craig’s decision to stay in office beyond Sept. 30 would mean the Senate ethics committee will look into the airport incident. It was widely assumed the committee would not bother with an investigation if Craig stepped down promptly.
Craig gave up his leadership posts on Senate committees after his arrest become public. Senate Republicans would have to vote to restore those posts, an action seen as highly unlikely.
While top-ranking GOP senators had little or nothing to say about Wednesday’s events, Craig received warm comments from his Idaho colleagues in Congress.
Sen. Mike Crapo. R-Idaho, said in a statement, “I support Senator Craig’s decision to remain in the U.S. Senate. He, like every citizen facing allegations, deserves to be able to fully defend himself.”
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