BOISE, Idaho - U.S. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho has appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in his ongoing attempt to withdraw his guilty plea in connection with an arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting.
Craig's appeal was filed at the court in St. Paul less than two weeks after Hennepin County Judge Charles Porter refused to overturn the guilty plea.
The Republican senator pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August, two months after he was accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The four-page appeal filing didn't detail the basis for the appeal.
Craig repeated yesterday that he will not resign from the Senate and said he had the right to pursue his legal options.
But legal experts have predicted Craig would have a hard time winning on appeal.
The senator speaks out In an interview with Matt Lauer, anchor of NBC’s TODAY morning program, Craig said that he defied calls for his resignation after he pleaded guilty in an airport restroom sex sting because that would be “the easy way out” and “I don’t just walk away from a fight.”
In addition, Craig bitterly criticized Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, for whom he had worked as a liaison to the Senate, for abandoning him in his hour of need.
After Craig’s arrest was reported in August, Romney issued a statement saying Craig had stepped down from his campaign, but Craig made it clear that the choice was not his.
“He not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again,” Craig said, according to brief excerpts of the interview released late Sunday by an NBC spokeswoman. The full interview was scheduled to air Tuesday night on NBC stations, the network said.
Craig acknowledged that he was in “the toughest fight of my political life,” but he declared: “I'm a fighter. ... I don’t just walk away from a fight.”
The interview, one of two Craig conducted Sunday, came the day after he was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame, an honor for which he was chosen in June before his arrest. Craig heard polite applause and a few encouraging hoots when he was introduced Saturday night at the Boise convention center.
Many of Craig’s Republican Senate colleagues have been pressuring him to resign, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who called the actions that led to Craig’s arrest June 11 “unforgivable.”
Craig to appeal plea ruling Craig, 62, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct after an undercover officer said he exhibited behavior consistent with that of someone seeking a sexual encounter. Craig, insisting repeatedly that he was not gay and that his arrest had been the result of a misunderstanding, unsuccessfully sought to withdraw his plea last week.
In the second interview, with NBC affiliate KTVB of Boise, Craig said he would appeal a judge’s refusal to let him withdraw the plea, adding: “I am pursuing my constitutional rights.”
After initially saying he would give up his Senate seat, Craig reversed course last week and vowed to serve out his term, again proclaiming his innocence and touting his seniority, especially on the Appropriations Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has responsibility for many issues important to Idaho.
Craig also said he was staying so he could fight to “clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee — something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate.”
“There's are so many people who don't want him to resign,” his wife Suzanne said.
Craig did rule out running for re-election next year, however. Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and Democratic former Rep. Larry LaRocco have both announced their campaigns for the seat. Risch handily defeated LaRocco for the lieutenant governorship last year.
'Walked into an entrapment' When asked by Lauer if he knew of the reputation of the restroom where he was arrested, Craig says say “No — not at all.” The restroom has been described as a hotspot for anonymous sexual encounters between gay men.
“I had no reason to know that,” he says. “I don't use the Internet. I don't have a computer at my desk. I e-mail with my Blackberry.”
“I walked into an entrapment and a sting.”
Suzanne Craig stunned by news Craig’s wife, Suzanne, told Lauer that “I felt like the floor was falling out from under me” when Craig told her that the story was going to break.
“It happened right here in this room,” she said, according to NBC. “And I felt like almost like I was going down a drain for a few moments.”
In the interview, the Craigs defended their 24-year marriage against rumors that it was a marriage of convenience to cover up a gay lifestyle.
“People know me and know that I would never do that,” said Suzanne Craig. “That's almost like selling your soul for something.”
“I love this woman very, very much,” Craig said. “The day I found her, I fell deeply in love. And we're heading toward our 25th anniversary.”
Larry Craig told Lauer that he kept the arrest quiet because “I didn’t want to embarrass my wife, my kids, Idaho and my friends.”
Of all this, Craig says the biggest lesson has been “full disclosure.” “[With] public life and in the glass house you live, you hide nothing from nobody.”
He added, “I made a very big mistake. I should have told my wife. I should have told my kids. And most importantly, I should have told counsel.”
What a piece of work is Senator Craig. Only deep denial combined with large amounts of hubris can explain the train wreak that is Larry Craig's present situation. He has become the skunk in the Republican Senate Cloak room. The man is clueless to the politics of his dust-up in that airport bathroom stall.
The man has to have an ego the size of an aircraft carrier. Somehow he believed this affair would never come to light in the first place. When it did he then went into attack mode and never backed down. It is now all about "proving" that he is "not gay."
Small problem, he has already pleaded to misdemeanor. There are next to no "do-overs" to pleading guilty in a court of law. That is why the police fill out all those forms, that is why the prosecutors make double-triple sure that the accused sign on each and every item and that is why the judge does a final check about buyers remorse.
Larry Craig was entrapped, the case would have most likely failed in a court of law. But that course of action, of fighting the arrest, is no longer available. People are not stupid, one does not admit to a crime one did not commit. Larry Craig seems to have forgotten that.
Every day Craig remains on the Senate floor is an embarrassment to the G.O.P. The Senate Republicans are trying to explain to Craig why he needs to fall on his sword but the Senator will not go gently into that good night.
More and more it looks like that the Senate Republican Senators will have to toss Craig out via an ethics investigation. That would be a very ugly affair. It would raise many embarrassing questions. It would also shine a very harsh light on Republican Hypocrisy. Larry Craig out, David Vitter still in, how do you justify that?
This whole affair has careered between tragedy and farce. As it gains speed look to more innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders getting side-swiped by the fish-tailing Senator from Idaho.