Congress

Craig apologizes to fellow senators

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID)
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) Handout/MCT

WASHINGTON — Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has apologized to his Senate colleagues for the "distraction" of his recent notoriety and has sent them a letter outlining his legal strategy for withdrawing a guilty plea in connection with a sex sting.

The letter went directly to fellow senators. It accompanied a copy of the motion that Craig filed Monday in Hennepin County, Minn., courts, seeking to undo his Aug. 1 guilty plea to a disorderly conduct misdemeanor. The three-term senator was arrested June 11 in the men's room of the Minneapolis airport after an undercover police officer said the senator had signaled he was interested in sexual activity.

Craig's spokesman, Dan Whiting, said he hadn't seen the letter or the Roll Call article that first mentioned it, but he was aware of it. He described it Friday as merely a "simple cover letter" for the legal filings. It went out to his colleagues this week "so that senators, if they wanted, could read it without the media filter," Whiting said in an e-mail.

The letter was sent because some fellow senators had contacted Craig's office wanting more information about his legal case, said Judy Smith, a spokeswoman for Craig's Washington criminal attorney, Billy Martin. Its purpose was to "just to keep them informed of the state of the legal issues," Smith said.

After the news broke last month of his arrest, Craig's Republican colleagues in the Senate launched an ethics investigation and asked him to give up his leadership posts on several committees, including the Interior appropriations subcommittee.

They also urged him to step down from his Senate seat. Craig announced Sept. 1 that he intends to resign at the end of the month, but he's also said he'll work to undo the guilty plea. If he's able to clear his name in court, Craig has said, he'll consider returning to the Senate to serve out the remainder of his term, although that's an increasingly unlikely possibility. If Craig does serve out his term, his advisers have said, he has no plans to run for re-election.

Craig's motion in the Minnesota courts asks that a judge withdraw his plea because he was "panicked and chose to plead to a crime he did not commit." In the motion, Craig blames the pressure of an investigation by the McClatchy newspaper The Idaho Statesman for the "intense anxiety" that led him to plead guilty, without the advice of a lawyer.

He has a court hearing Sept. 26 in Minnesota, but it isn't clear whether he'll be there.

Craig hasn't been back in Washington since the news of his arrest.

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