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GOP leaders ask
for ethics probe of Craig

GOP leaders ask
for ethics probe of Craig

Senate Republican leaders called for an ethics committee review Tuesday into Idaho U.S. senator Larry Craig's guilty plea in a police sting operation this summer in an airport men's room.

Republican leaders also are ''examining other aspects of the case to see if additional action is required,'' Sen. Mitch McConnell and other top GOP lawmakers said in a written statement obtained by the Associated Press.

They released the statement shortly before Craig's scheduled appearance before television cameras in Boise, his first public comments since confirming his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

Craig entered his plea several weeks after an undercover police officer in Minneapolis arrested him and filed a complaint that said the three-term senator had engaged in actions ''often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.''

The bathroom incident in the Minneapolis airport occurred on June 11. Craig signed his plea papers on August 1, and word of the events surfaced on Monday. The senator issued a statement Monday night that said, ''In hindsight, I should have pled not guilty.''

The statement by McConnell and other members of the GOP leadership was brief--and contained no words of support for their veteran colleague.

''This is a serious matter. Due to the reported and disputed circumstances, and the legal resolution of this serious case, we will recommend that Senator Craig's incident be reported to the Senate Ethics Committee for its review,'' they said.

The statement did not specify what other actions might be under consideration.

The married Craig, 62, has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s, but allegations that he has engaged in gay sex have never been substantiated. Craig has denied the assertions and says that he is not gay.

The arrest changes that dynamic, said Jasper LiCalzi, a political science professor at Albertson College of Idaho in Caldwell. He cited the House page scandal that drove Florida U.S. representative Mark Foley from office.

''There's a chance that he'll resign over this,'' LiCalzi said. ''With the pressure on the Republican Party, he could be pressured to resign. If they think this is going to be something that's the same as Mark Foley -- the sort of 'drip, drip, drip, there's more information that's going to come out' -- they may try to push him out.''

Already Craig has stepped down from a prominent role with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He had been one of Romney's top Senate supporters, serving as a Senate liaison for the campaign since February.

''He did not want to be a distraction, and we accept his decision,'' said Matt Rhoades, a Romney campaign spokesman.

According to a Hennepin County, Minn., court docket, Craig pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge on August 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

The court docket said Craig paid $575 in fines and fees and was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.

According to the prosecutor's complaint, obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press, airport police sergeant Dave Karsnia, who was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms, went into a stall shortly after noon on June 11 and closed the door.

Minutes later, the officer saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack between the stall door and the frame; fidgeting with his fingers; and returning to gazing through the stall for about another two minutes.

After a man in the adjacent stall left, Craig entered it and put his roller bag against the front of the stall door, ''which Sgt. Karsnia's experience has indicated is used to attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front of the stall,'' said the complaint, which was dated June 25.

The complaint said Craig then tapped his right foot several times and moved it closer to Karsnia's stall, then moved it into the area of the officer's stall to where it touched Karsnia's foot. Karsnia recognized that ''as a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct,'' the complaint said.

Craig then passed his left hand under the stall divider into Karsnia's stall with his palms up and guided it along the divider toward the front of the stall three times, the complaint said.

The officer then showed his police identification under the divider and pointed toward the exit ''at which time the defendant exclaimed 'No!' '' the complaint said.

The August 8 police report says that Craig had handed the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a member of the Senate.

''What do you think about that?'' Craig is alleged to have said, according to the report.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, first reported the arrest and guilty plea.

Craig joins other GOP senators facing ethical and legal troubles.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is under scrutiny for his relationship with a contractor who helped oversee a renovation project that more than doubled the size of the senator's home.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) acknowledged that his phone number appeared in records of a Washington, D.C.-area business that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution.

Craig, a rancher and a member of the National Rifle Association, lives in Eagle, Idaho, near the capital of Boise. He was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990. He was reelected in 1996 and 2002.

Last fall Craig called allegations from a gay rights activist that he's had homosexual relationships ''completely ridiculous.''

Mike Rogers, who bills himself as a gay activist blogger, published the allegations on his Web site,, in October 2006.

The Idaho Statesman, citing an anonymous source, reported Monday night that a man with close ties to Republican officials said he'd had a sexual encounter with Craig in the men's room of Washington's Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol. Craig denied the incident in a May interview with the newspaper, and no arrests were made. (Matthew Daly, AP)

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