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Updated: 11:52 a.m.
Saturday’s coordinated push by Democratic leaders to publicly force Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation came after days of quiet talks and a final phone call from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who told him his plan to seek treatment was not enough, aides close to the matter told Roll Call.
Pelosi, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) and other leaders had hoped Weiner would come to terms with the reality of the sex scandal and exit gracefully.
But “when it became clear he was going to keep this going, they called him [Saturday] morning individually” to give him a last chance to resign on his own or have the full weight of the Democratic Party brought down on him, a Democratic aide familiar with the situation said.
"Since this story broke, we were giving Congressman Weiner some breathing room to be able to be circumspect, do the right thing, make a decision, reach the conclusion that he needed to step back and step down on his own," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "As of yesterday, when that didn't happen, it was important to weigh in."
For Pelosi, the fact that Weiner needed to leave the House had become obvious during his disastrous news conference Monday. Weiner had called Pelosi just before the event to admit he had lied about his online exchanges with six women. Pelosi had bluntly warned the seven-term lawmaker that he needed to come clean with the press, his family and colleagues, and she said that after the news conference they would decide what steps to take next.
But instead of reassuring her that Weiner could easily and quickly weather the controversy, the rambling news conference raised more questions and made clear that the scandal wasn’t going away anytime soon.
Pelosi and Israel were particularly unhappy with the timing of the scandal. Democrats were finally on the offensive against Republicans thanks to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (Wis.) cost-cutting proposal that included major changes to Medicare. For once, her Caucus was not only relevant but scoring serious points against the GOP.
The problem, aides said, was that Weiner could not be simply forced out. He hadn’t broken any laws or major ethics rules as far as anyone knew. And unlike other scandal-plagued members who have resigned under pressure, such as former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.), Weiner wasn’t beholden to his party’s infrastructure and fundraising operation. He already has a significant war chest of his own, his own donor network and a national profile with left-leaning activists who can quickly pour millions into his campaign coffers.
“You can’t force someone out” under those circumstances, a Democratic aide said. “You just can’t.”
The only option, aides said, was to find a way to convince Weiner he needed to resign of his own accord.