By JOHN MILLER
Associated Press Writer
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - One of Sen. Larry Craig's lawyers said Wednesday the Senate has no business looking into the conduct of one of its own following Craig's guilty plea in connection with an airport men's room sex sting.
An unbroken line of precedents dating back 220 years makes clear the Senate does not consider misdemeanor private conduct to be a fit subject of inquiry, asserted Washington attorney Stan Brand.
"We ought to seek to have the committee dismiss this outright," Brand said of a Senate ethics panel's investigation. "The Republican leadership called for an ethics investigation that had nothing to do with his office," said Brand on NBC's "Today" show.
Craig says he may still fight for his Senate seat, a spokesman says - if the lawmaker can clear his name with the Senate ethics panel and a Minnesota court.
The Republican lawmaker, who has represented Idaho for 27 years, announced Saturday that he intended to resign.
"It's not such a foregone conclusion anymore that the only thing he could do was resign," Sidney Smith, Craig's spokesman in Idaho's capital, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
"We're still preparing as if Senator Craig will resign Sept. 30, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact on whether we're able to stay in the fight - and stay in the Senate," Smith said.
Dana Perino, White House deputy press secretary, said Wednesday she'd heard news reports that Craig was reconsidering his resignation. "I don't think that our views have changed," she said, "but of course this is the senator's decision, the senator's seat."
In Washington, D.C., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's spokesman and the senatorial campaign committee had no immediate comment on Craig reconsidering.
On Aug. 1, Craig, 62, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct following his June 11 arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
But Craig, who remained in Idaho on Tuesday as the Senate reconvened following its summer break, contended throughout last week he had done nothing wrong and said his only mistake was pleading guilty.
"It was a little more cut and dried a few days ago," Smith said. "There weren't many options. He was basically going to have to step aside. Now, there's a little more to it."
A telephone call Craig received last week from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urging him to consider fighting the guilty plea - and for his seat - affected Craig's decision to reconsider his resignation, Smith said.
On Tuesday, Specter, senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested Craig's GOP colleagues who pressured him last week to resign should re-examine the facts surrounding his arrest.
"The more people take a look at the situation, there may well be second thoughts," said Specter, a former prosecutor. If Craig had not pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and instead demanded a trial, "I believe he would have been exonerated," Specter said.
Craig has hired a high-powered crisis management team including Billy Martin, the lawyer for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, and Washington attorney Stan Brand, a former general counsel to the U.S. House. Martin is looking into the Minnesota guilty plea; Brand, who represented Major League Baseball in the congressional investigation into steroid use, will handle any Senate Ethics Committee probe.
Craig's third six-year term in the Senate expires in January 2009.
Before Craig announced his intent to resign at month's end, McConnell called Craig's actions "unforgivable," while the White House termed the situation disappointing. Republican Senate colleagues John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota said Craig should resign.
Republican Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has not named Craig's successor and hasn't said when he will.
Craig has won support from his family, including his three children, whom he adopted after marrying their mother, the former Suzanne Scott, in 1983. Jay Craig, 33, told The Associated Press that he, his brother, Michael Craig, 38, and his sister, Shae Howell, 36, spoke candidly with their father about what happened in Minnesota.
"Our conclusion was there was no wrongdoing there," Jay Craig said. "He was a victim of circumstance, in the wrong place at the wrong time when this sting operation was going on."
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly and Laurie Kellman in
Washington contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)