By Paul Kane
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, August 31, 2007
Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) denied to police that he was soliciting sex in an airport restroom but told the undercover officer who arrested him that "I don't want to be in court" to fight the charges, according to a police interview with Craig released yesterday.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Police distributed the audio and transcript of the eight-minute interview, which was conducted immediately after Craig's arrest on June 11. In the session, Craig disputed the officer's account of the encounter, and both grew combative.
"I'm a respectable person, and I don't do these kinds of . . .," Craig said, prompting police Sgt. Dave Karsnia to cut him off near the end of the interview. The officer called the senator's recollection of the events "unbelievable" and said that Craig was "embarrassing" himself with his denials.
Because of politicians like him, Karsnia told Craig, "we're going down the tubes."
Support for Craig in Idaho and on Capitol Hill has been sinking since news of his arrest and guilty plea to a disorderly-conduct charge became public on Monday. Several colleagues have called for his resignation, and Senate Republican leaders, who demanded an inquiry by the ethics committee, stripped him of his senior positions on committees that are key to his political survival.
Since a defiant public statement Tuesday afternoon, Craig has not been seen in public, going on a vacation with his wife, Suzanne, aides said. He has said he will decide in September whether to seek a fourth six-year term in 2008.
With no public defense on his behalf, the audiotape released yesterday has served as the only detailed explanation of events from Craig. In the session, the officer reads Craig his legal rights and begins to question him.
Craig told the officer that he travels almost weekly through the Twin Cities airport and that he uses that particular restroom "regularly." Craig suggested that the matter be settled quietly. "Am I going to have to fight you in court?" he asked Karsnia early in the session.
"No, no. I'm not going to court unless you want me there," the officer replied, to which Craig told him: "'Cause I don't want to be in court, either."
He later told Craig: "You're gonna get out of here. You're gonna have to pay a fine, and that will be it. Okay. I don't call the media."
But the interview soon became an argument over the details of the incident and whether Craig's actions were those of a man seeking a sexual encounter or whether he merely misunderstood gestures.
"I am not gay; I don't do these kinds of things," Craig told Karsnia. The officer replied that he did not care what the senator's sexual orientation is but that Craig was not being candid about the incident in the restroom.
In the police report, Karsnia wrote that based on his experience, Craig's touching his foot to the officer's and running his hand under the partition separating the stalls are well-known signals among men who use public restrooms for sexual encounters.
Craig vehemently denied that interpretation of his actions.
"Your foot came toward mine, mine came towards yours. Was that natural? Did we bump? Yes, I think we did. You said so. I won't dispute that," he said, explaining later that he was not sure how their feet came to bump each other. "I'm a fairly wide guy."
Craig also disputed that he swiped his left hand under the partition, which would have shown his wedding ring to Karsnia. He said he bent down to pick up a piece of paper with his right hand, adding that to get his left hand under the partition would have required him to "turned sideways" because his stall was on Karsnia's left-hand side.
The officer said he saw the wedding ring on Craig's hand, and challenged the senator's version of events.
"I expect this from the guy we get out of the 'hood," Karsnia said. "I mean, people vote for you."