GOP Senators Abandon Craig, Call for Resignation

Craig steps down from committees, and several have called for his resignation.

Aug. 29, 2007 — -- Two Republican senators have abandoned disgraced Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, today and called on him to resign his Senate seat.

Presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain and Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman are the first of Craig's colleagues to join Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., in pushing for Craig's resignation.

"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," McCain told CNN.

"Sen. Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator," Coleman said today in a statement.

Hoekstra said that Craig "represents the Republican Party" and that "his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator."

Craig Asked to Step Down From Top Committee Assignments

With Craig's mug shot making the media rounds, Senate Republican leaders asked him to step down from several committee assignments today.

"Sen. Larry Craig has agreed to comply with leadership's request that he temporarily step down," Senate Republican leaders said in a statement.

Craig was the top Republican on the Veteran Affairs Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee for Public Lands and Forests.

"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," read the statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and fellow Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss.; Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; and John Ensign, R-Nev.

"It's a very unfortunate situation, very sad and very serious," Sen. Trent Lott told Bloomberg TV Wednesday. "And I think we had to pay very close attention to it as we work on finding out what really went on."

It marked the second day in a row that Republican leaders in the Senate offered no support to Craig.

Republican leaders announced Craig would face an Ethics Committee investigation just before the senator's appearance before reporters Tuesday where he explained his guilty plea.

The White House also offered no support to Craig in a statement today.

"We're disappointed in what's going on," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. "We hope that it will be resolved quickly, as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho."

Craig: 'I Am Not Gay'

Craig faced television cameras Tuesday in an attempt to explain his guilty plea in a case that followed a lewd conduct investigation.

With his wife by his side, Craig said Tuesday in Idaho: "Let me be clear. I am not gay. I have never been gay."

It was a striking statement from the U.S. senator, who was the subject of a police sting set up in response to complaints of sexual activity in a men's room at a Minnesota airport.

"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport," said Craig. "I regret my decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. And for that, I apologize."

Craig Pleaded Guilty to Disorderly Conduct Charge

The arresting airport officer has a different story.

Working undercover, Sgt. Dave Karsnia said Craig entered a stall next to him, then tapped his foot and rubbed it against the officer's, a signal, police say, to engage in "lewd conduct."

"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 now says the guilty plea was a mistake, painting quite a different portrait than he did just three weeks ago in court documents in which he stated "I'm pleading guilty" to "physical" conduct that tended "to arouse alarm." He entered that plea "freely and voluntarily."

Craig pleaded guilty to those disorderly conduct charges without an attorney.

"I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have told my family and my friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway because I am not gay," a contrite Craig said Tuesday.

Craig Blames Hometown Newspaper

Craig blamed the situation on pressure from an investigation by his hometown newspaper, which ran a front page story outlining three additional alleged sexual encounters.

In a written statement Tuesday, Republican leaders had no words of support for their colleague in the Senate. Rather, they called for an Ethics Committee to review Craig's guilty plea and are "examining other aspects of the case to see if additional action is required."

GOP Idaho Governor Offers Support

Idaho Republican Gov. Butch Otter, the man who would be responsible for picking Craig's replacement if he were to resign, said today that he and his wife support Craig, whom he has known for 40 years.

"I want Larry and Suzanne to know that Laurie and I stand by them," Otter said. "I urge everyone to give our senator a fair hearing. He is an honorable man. And I am confident that Larry Craig will do what is best for him, his family and the state of Idaho."

Across the aisle, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said he wanted to hear more from Craig himself before coming to any conclusions.

"I at least want to give him a chance to hear his side of the story," Dodd told CNN. I'm a Democrat. He's a very conservative Republican. We don't agree on much, but give him a little space here to defend himself."