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With several prominent Republicans calling for his resignation today, embattled Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) agreed this afternoon to comply with a request by Senate GOP leaders to step down as ranking member on one committee and two subcommittees.
After asking for an ethics investigation into Craig’s actions regarding his arrest for lewd conduct and his guilty plea to disorderly conduct in a Minnesota airport men’s restroom, GOP leaders released a statement Wednesday saying that Craig stepping down “is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the Ethics Committee.”
Craig has temporarily stepped down from three panels: the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, and Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.
Meanwhile, at least three Republican lawmakers have called for Craig’s resignation including, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said on CNN, “when you plead guilty to a crime, then you shouldn’t serve.”
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) also called on Craig to step aside.
But other GOP Members continued to hold back from such demands. Asked whether Craig should resign, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said on Fox News this afternoon, “I’m not ready to call for that.”
However, Lott did say the actions the Senate GOP leadership have called for are “appropriate at this time.” Lott said he had not spoken to Craig since Roll Call broke the story of the Senator’s arrest on Monday, but indicated that he would, at some point, “have to.”
Meanwhile, across the country Wednesday, speculation continued as to how Craig’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea were shielded from the media for more than two and a half months after the original incident occurred.
A spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police Department said Wednesday that while the force realized at the time it had apprehended a high-profile public figure, it treated the case as just another arrest in an ongoing sting operation that swept up at least 40 individuals at the airport in a little more than a month’s time. The department does not routinely issue news releases when it makes arrests, the spokeswoman said.
“Although it was a Senator, we try to treat everyone the same,” she said.
Craig claimed in a statement Tuesday that he did not consult with an attorney after being arrested and that he regrets the guilty plea he entered earlier this month via mail — a procedure allowed by the Hennepin County District Court.
Although police documents show that Craig returned to the airport 11 days after the incident to inquire about a police contact so “his lawyer can speak to someone,” Craig — who is not a lawyer — notes in his guilty plea that he was representing himself. In that plea agreement, for which he was given a year of probation, he gave the court his address in Washington, D.C., as opposed to his home address in Idaho.
Emily Pierce contributed to this report.