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U.S. lawmakers press senator to resign in scandal over bathroom arrest

U.S. lawmakers press senator to resign in scandal over bathroom arrest

Political support was eroding quickly for a Republican senator caught up in a sex scandal, as three fellow Republicans in the U.S. Congress called for his resignation and party leaders pushed him from senior committee posts.
The White House expressed disappointment, too _ and nary a word of support Wednesday for 62-year-old Sen. Larry Craig, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation in an airport men's room.
Craig "represents the Republican Party," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the first in a steadily lengthening list of Republican members of Congress to urge a resignation.
The senator's spokesman declined comment. "They have a right to express themselves," said Sidney Smith. He said he had heard no discussion of a possible resignation.
Craig said Tuesday he had committed no wrongdoing and should not have pleaded guilty. He said he had only recently retained a lawyer to advise him in the case that threatens to write an ignominious end to a lifetime in public office.
Sens. John McCain and Norm Coleman joined Hoekstra in urging Craig to step down, as did Rep. Jeff Miller _ and others who joined them as the day wore on.
McCain spoke out in an interview with CNN. "My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."
Coleman said in a written statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."
For a second consecutive day, Republican Senate leaders stepped in, issuing a statement that said Craig had "agreed to comply with leadership's request" to temporarily give up his posts on important committees. He has been the top Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee as well as on subcommittees for two other panels.
"This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee," said the statement, issued in the name of Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, and others.
On Tuesday, the leaders jumped in ahead of Craig's appearance before television cameras in his home state of Idaho to announce they had asked the ethics committee to look into the case.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, "We are disappointed in the matter," without specifying exactly what was causing the discomfort.
He said he hoped the ethics committee would do its work swiftly, "as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho."
For the most part, Democrats studiously avoided involvement with an unfolding Republican scandal.
"We at least ought to hear his side of the story.," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, like McCain a presidential contender who spoke on CNN.
Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn said his party stood to gain. "All of these people who (are) holier than thou are now under investigations. ... I think the Republican Party will find itself in a great peril next year," he said.
Craig was arrested on June 11 in the Minneapolis airport men's room after an undercover officer observed conduct that he said was "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
Craig was read his rights, fingerprinted and required to submit to a mug shot at the time of his arrest.
He subsequently pleaded guilty on Aug. 1 to disorderly conduct, and signed papers that included a notation that the court would not accept a guilty plea from anyone claiming to be innocent.
In his public appearance on Tuesday, Craig said he had "overreacted and made a poor decision" after being apprehended. He also said that he is not gay.
"While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct in the Minneapolis Airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away," he said.
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Associated Press writer Todd Dvorak contributed to this story from Idaho. Matthew Daly, Ken Thomas and Andrew Miga contributed from Washington, and Jim Davenport from Columbia, South Carolina.


Updated : 2021-05-08 18:38 GMT+08:00