WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Larry Craig said Thursday that he's waiting to find out whether a judge dismisses his guilty plea next week before he decides whether he'll step down from the Senate at the end of the month.
"I just don't know yet," Craig said, when asked whether he would resign Sept. 30.
His decision to continue in office past his self-imposed deadline will depend on "the legal issues, and those kind of things I'm working on," Craig, R-Idaho, told McClatchy Newspapers in a brief interview.
Craig signed a guilty plea Aug. 1, admitting to disorderly conduct in connection with a sex sting by an undercover police officer in the men's room of the Minneapolis bathroom. Pressured by Senate GOP leaders, Craig announced Sept. 1 that he intended to resign at month’s end. But a few days later he said that wasn’t final. He said he would to try to withdraw his guilty plea, and if he was able to clear his name of the charges, he might stay through the 16 months left in his term.
His latest comment seems to suggest he might stay even if his name isn’t cleared in the 10 days remaining in September. He faces a court hearing Wednesday in Minneapolis on his request to void his plea.
But he also said Thursday that he is “doing all the things that I have to do in relation to shutting down my office and doing things like that.”
“It is my intent to proceed in that direction, as I told the public the day I made my announcement,” Craig said.
Under Idaho law, Craig must resign to Gov. Butch Otter before Otter can appoint someone to complete Craig’s term. Otter’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Craig said he was back in Washington “to go to work. That’s what I’ve been doing. Attending committee meetings, voting on the floor, meeting with constituents.
“It’s gratifying to be back doing what I should be doing, and working on the legal issues at hand,” he said. Craig took his colleagues by surprise when he returned Tuesday to the Senate after a two-week absence. As the week went on, Craig seemed to earn points from his colleague for sheer chutzpah — but also appeared to be trapped in a twilight zone and a continuing punch line of political jokes.
For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to impress upon reporters Thursday to what lengths he had gone to try to win enough Republican votes to pass an amendment mandating longer troop rest times between Iraq deployments. The amendment fell short.
“I spent three weeks trying. I called and spoke to Republican senators. I even called Larry Craig, OK?” Reid laughed.
Erika Bolstad: (202) 383-6104. McClatchy
Newspapers correspondent Margaret Talev contributed to this report.