Craig Tells Senate Leader of Plans to Fight Charge, Finish Term

By Paul Kane Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 5, 2007; 6:22 PM

Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) told a Republican leader today that he will finish out his term if he is able to overturn his guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge in the next three weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that he spoke with Craig this morning. Craig told him that if he could "dispose" of the guilty plea he made last month after being accused of soliciting sex in a Minnesota airport men's room, "it would be his intention to come back to the Senate and deal with the Ethics Committee case . . . and to try to finish his term."

"He is going to try to get the case in Minneapolis dismissed," McConnell added.

The 62-year-old Idaho conservative was arrested in a men's room at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on June 11 by an undercover police officer conducting a sting after complaints of sexual activity in the restroom. In his report and an interview released by the airport police, the officer said Craig used signals employed by men seeking sex.

Craig has denied the accusations, but he pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge and paid a $500 fine. On Saturday, after nearly a week of pressure from lawmakers and others, he announced he intended to resign on Sept. 30.

Declining to comment on how Craig would be received by his colleagues, McConnell said he stood by earlier comments that Craig should resign. "I thought he made the difficult but correct decision," McConnell said.

McConnell said Craig told him he wanted to "dispel . . . any confusion" about reconsidering his decision to step down that may have been created by comments from his staff in the last 24 hours.

Craig's office said today that if he serves out his term, which ends in 2009, he will not seek reelection next year.

In another development today, Craig's attorney told the Senate Ethics Committee in a letter that the case should be closed without sanction against Craig. In an interview, attorney Stanley Brand said that the committee generally does not reprimand senators for misdemeanors or sanction them for behavior that does not involve their official conduct.

"They have not done it with respect to private conduct that does not rise to that level," Brand said.

But the Ethics Committee sent a letter to GOP leaders late today saying it can investigate all forms of misconduct by senators and would conduct an inquiry unless Craig resigns. A copy of the letter was given to the Washington Post.

News that Craig was reconsidering his decision to resign surfaced Tuesday night.

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