Just minutes after Senate Republican leaders issued a statement Tuesday afternoon recommending the Senate Ethics Committee review Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-Idaho) arrest and subsequent guilty plea over an incident at a Minnesota airport men’s restroom, the Idaho Senator publically asked for his constituents’ forgiveness and proclaimed repeatedly that he is not a homosexual.
Making his first public appearance since Roll Call reported Monday on his arrest, Craig did not discuss any details of the June 11 encounter with an undercover airport police officer who was investigating complaints of lewd acts in the bathroom, but did say he made a mistake trying to handle the arrest without a lawyer or even informing his family.
“While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away,” Craig said in Boise, Idaho. “I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it. Because of that, I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.”
While there was rampant speculation that Craig might use Tuesday’s appearance to disclose his political plans for 2008, when his third term ends, the 62-year-old Senator said he still has work to do in Congress and will not announce his re-election plans until sometime next month.
“Over the years, I have accomplished a lot for Idaho, and I hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that,” Craig said. “There are still goals I would like to accomplish, and I believe I can still be an effective leader for Idaho. Next month, I will announce, as planned, whether or not I will seek re-election.”
Senate leaders’ call for an ethics investigation into Craig’s actions was announced in a statement released by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Senate Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairwoman Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.). According to Senate GOP aides, the five Senators decided to call for an ethics investigation during a conference call earlier in the day.
A Senate Republican leadership aide said Conference Vice Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) was not included in the call because he also sits on the Ethics panel. The Senate GOP leadership aide said Craig’s situation was different from Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) recent admission that his phone number was on the “D.C. Madam’s” list of clients for her alleged prostitution ring.
Craig was arrested by a plainclothes police officer who accused the Senator of seeking sex in a men’s room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct earlier this month.
“This was a violation of the law, and [Craig] pled guilty to it in court, which distinguishes it” from Vitter, the aide said. The aide added the Vitter was not a sitting Senator at the time of his alleged liaisons with prostitutes.
The fact that Craig also pulled out his business card identifying himself as a Senator during his arrest also set off alarm bells with GOP leaders, the aide said.
“There was a question as to whether that was appropriate and whether that in and of itself was a violation of Ethics rules,” the aide said.
A Senate Republican source said McConnell called Craig before the GOP leaders released their statement.