Embattled Idaho Sen. Larry Craig will announce Saturday what he plans to do in the wake of a chorus of calls from fellow Republicans to step down from the post he has held for 16 years. He has faced increasing pressure to resign in the wake of the news that he was caught in June in an undercover vice operation at the Minneapolis airport.
The Associated Press, quoting unnamed Republican sources, said Craig will resign. But Craig spokesman Dan Whiting, while confirming that there would be an announcement Saturday, would not say whether Craig will step down.
The Idaho Republican was arrested June 11 by an undercover police officer in a men's restroom at the airport. The officer said the senator had engaged in conduct "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
On Thursday, police released an audio tape of a conversation between Craig and the arresting officer. On the tape, the senator can be heard denying that he was soliciting sex."I'm not gay. I don't do these kinds of things," Craig is recorded as saying.
Craig denied that he used foot and hand gestures to signal interest in a sexual encounter.
On the tape, Sgt. Dave Karsnia, the arresting officer, is heard accusing Craig of lying. He also chastises the senator.
Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Aug. 1, but did not hire an attorney or tell his family about the charge. Craig said this week that he regretted entering the guilty plea, but did so because of the stress caused by an ongoing investigation by the Idaho Statesman.
GOP leaders offered their Idaho colleague little support after details of his arrest became known. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Craig's conduct "unforgivable," and GOP leaders immediately called for an Ethics Committee review.
Earlier Friday, Republican officials in Idaho said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has already selected a successor, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch. Both are Republicans.
At a Tuesday news conference in Boise, Idaho, Craig maintained he did nothing wrong, despite his guilty plea.
"I am not gay. I never have been gay," he said, as his wife stood by his side.
In the police interview, Craig did not admit to doing anything wrong. Instead, he said his actions had been misinterpreted. But Karsnia wrote in his report that the gestures were consistent with efforts to find a sexual partner in the men's room.
When Craig later pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of disorderly conduct, he labeled the paper's probe into allegations that he had homosexual relationships "a witchhunt."
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, which he calls ridiculous.
According to his Senate Web site, Craig was born on his family's ranch near Midvale, Idaho, and graduated from the University of Idaho.
He was elected to the Idaho state Senate in 1974 and served three terms before winning a congressional seat in 1980. He served in Congress until he was elected to the Senate in 1990.
As a senator, Craig amassed a strongly conservative voting record, voting against gay marriage. He is up for re-election in 2008.
Besides a new scandal, Republicans' Senate prospects in next year's election were also set back Friday by Sen. John Warner's announcement that he will retire rather than seek a sixth term.
The contest for control of the next Senate was already tilted against Republicans, who must defend 22 of 34 seats on the ballot next year. With a GOP candidate other than Craig, Republicans would stand a much better chance of keeping his Idaho seat in 2008.
Risch served for seven months as governor last year after former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was named Interior Secretary. Risch had said earlier that he would be interested in Craig's Senate seat if Craig did not seek re-election in 2008.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press