Craig to Step Down at End of September

Posted September 1, 2007 at 12:22pm

Scandal-tinged Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) announced Saturday that he will resign at the end of September, closing out a nearly week-long, tabloid-style drama that began after a police report surfaced detailing how Craig was swept up in a sting in a Minnesota airport bathroom. Flanked by his wife, children, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) and conservative first-term Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho), Craig today continued to maintain his innocence but said he was stepping aside to explore his legal options and to avoid becoming a “distraction.” “I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearing my name is important to me and my family,” Craig said Saturday in Boise. “These are serious times of war and conflict – times that deserve the Senate and our full nation’s attention. There are many challenges facing Idaho that I’m currently engaged in, and the people of Idaho deserve a Senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to critical state and national issues.” According to a police report first detailed by Roll Call on Monday, Craig was arrested by a plainclothes police officer around mid-day on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That afternoon, law enforcement at the airport was staking out a public restroom, according to the arrest report, investigating complaints of sexual activity when Craig began loitering around the stall occupied by the arresting officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia. “I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, ‘fidget’ with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes,” states the report. After entering the stall adjoining Karsnia’s, Craig placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door, the report continued. Karsnia wrote that his “experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall.” Craig then tapped his right foot, which Karsnia wrote that he recognized as a “signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct.” Craig then “[tapped] his toes several times and [moved] his foot closer to my foot … the presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area.” But when Craig repeatedly swiped his hand under the stall divider several times, Karsnia flashed his badge under the stall divider, to which Craig exclaimed, “No.” Craig later explained to the officer that “he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom and that his foot may have touched” the officer’s foot inadvertently. He, too, said he was reaching down to pick up a piece of paper, a claim Karsnia denied. In early August, Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection to the incident, paying more than $500 in fines and fees but avoiding jail time. Since Roll Call first detailed Craig’s Aug. 8 guilty plea, Craig, who is married, staunchly denies he was engaging in anything untoward and says he is not gay. Still, fellow Republicans in the Senate and House continued to distance themselves from Craig from the outset. When the details first surfaced, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney quickly disposed of Craig from his campaign and later in the week Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and other GOP colleagues asked for him to step down. On Tuesday, Republican leaders in the Senate called for an ethics investigation into the incident. The next day, GOP leadership stripped him of his committee posts. The White House also called the incident a “disappointment.” Otter will name Craig’s replacement, widely believed to be Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R).