Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), in an emotional interview with The Washington Post, said he asked his House Republican colleagues on Wednesday morning for forgiveness following his recent guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge for cocaine possession.
“I’m thankful I had that opportunity, but I have a whole lot to do to make amends,” said Radel, who returned to Congress this week after a month of rehabilitation. “It felt good to talk with them. It felt good, it really did. I know there’s still a long way to go with my country and constituents, and especially with my family, but it felt good.”
Several House Republicans say most members received Radel sympathetically and that he was applauded after he finished his remarks.
“It was the Trey Radel apology tour,” said one House Republican. “We’ve all dealt with friends or families who have struggled with addiction, so we listened and offered encouragement.”
Radel, a 37-year-old freshman, was nearly at a loss for words when asked by The Post to describe the kind words and embraces from House Republicans. “It meant a lot to me,” he said, his eyes welling with tears. “I just have a lot of work to do."
After the GOP conference meeting ended, he spent nearly 30 minutes huddling with friends, and he was one of the last Republicans to leave the room.
Radel made his conciliatory and extemporaneous address in front of hundreds of his GOP colleagues in a conference room in the Capitol basement. The closed-door session was the first Republican conference meeting since members returned from the winter recess.
Radel arrived back to the capital late Tuesday night for a series of votes. According to two House Republicans, he has scheduled meetings this week with GOP leadership to discuss his return to Congress.
Radel is undecided on whether he will run for reelection in Florida’s 19th congressional district. Paige Kreegel, a former Florida state legislator, is already mounting a primary challenge, and her allies have raised $1 million for a super PAC. Other Republicans from Southwest Florida, including former congressman Connie Mack (R-Fla.), are mulling their own bids against the embattled lawmaker.