- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Craig returns

Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, returned to Washington yesterday for the first time since the public disclosure of his guilty plea in a men’s room sex sting.

Mr. Craig was back at the Capitol “representing Idaho, working on transition and meeting with his legal team,” spokesman Dan Whiting said.

He arrived in the Senate chamber around noon to vote and receive greetings from fellow senators, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, and home-state Republican colleague Michael D. Crapo.

Other colleagues, such as Republican Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and John McCain of Arizona — both of whom criticized Mr. Craig when the scandal broke — seemed to deliberately avoid the disgraced Idahoan, who at times stood awkwardly alone, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Craig was a no-show when Congress reconvened after its summer break. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct last month after an undercover officer at the Minneapolis airport said Mr. Craig solicited him for sex. Mr. Craig has denied the charge, and his attorneys have asked a judge to let him withdraw the guilty plea.

Mr. Craig announced that he intends to resign from the Senate on Sept. 30, but a spokesman has said he might try to keep his seat for a fourth term next year if he is allowed to withdraw his plea.

Cheers for Bush

President Bush, cheered on by Iraq war veterans and their families on the White House’s South Lawn, urged lawmakers yesterday to back his plan to withdraw some troops from Iraq but keep at least 130,000 through next summer or longer.

“I ask the United States Congress to support the troop levels and the strategies I have embraced,” Mr. Bush said to loud cheers and chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

The president briefly addressed about 850 members of military-support organizations who were invited to the White House for coffee, juice and pastries. With almost everyone wearing red shirts, people from several organizations gathered at picnic tables set up on the South Lawn in the morning sun, the Associated Press reports.

Among the groups in attendance were Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, Vets for Freedom, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Along with the president and his wife, Laura, other top administration officials also attended the event, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Bush offered sympathy to those in the crowd who lost a loved one in the war, and he thanked war veterans as well as active-duty military members.

“On this beautiful morning, we thank you for your steadfast resolve,” he said, before lingering to shake hands and mingle with the crowd.

‘Poster child’

In its most direct attack yet on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the campaign of Democratic presidential contender John Edwards yesterday denounced a fundraising luncheon that included sessions for Clinton donors with members of Congress who have expertise in homeland security.

“Today’s Clinton fundraising event is a ‘poster child’ for what is wrong with Washington and what should never happen again with a candidate running for the highest office in the land,” Mr. Edwards’ senior adviser, Joe Trippi, said in a letter to supporters.

Mr. Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois have declined money from individuals who lobby the federal government and have tried to portray Mrs. Clinton, who does accept lobbyists’ money, as beholden to special interests. Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards do accept money from corporate executives whose industries have interests in government policies.

In response, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, “Increasingly negative attacks against other Democrats aren’t going to end the war, deliver universal health care or turn John Edwards’ flagging campaign around.”

The Clinton fundraiser was held yesterday in the Washington offices of Jones Day, a global law firm with more than 2,200 lawyers in 30 offices worldwide, the Associated Press reports.

Subpoenas fly

Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, House Republican whip Rep. Roy Blunt and 11 other members of Congress have been subpoenaed to testify in the trial of a defense contractor charged with bribing jailed former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

All of the lawmakers said they would not comply, on the advice of House attorneys, the Associated Press reports. The House general counsel’s office is preparing to move to quash the subpoenas after failing to get a clear explanation of why the lawmakers’ testimony is needed, according to the chief of staff of subpoenaed Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican.

The subpoenas were issued by attorneys for contractor Brent Wilkes, who faces trial Oct. 2 in San Diego on 25 counts of bribery, fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in connection with his relationship with Cunningham.

Cunningham, a Republican who represented a California district, is serving an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for government contracts.

Oily question

Republican presidential hopefulFred Thompson seemed taken by surprise when asked yesterday about oil drilling in the Everglades, apparently unaware it’s been a major Florida issue.

Before answering, he laughed at the question.

“Gosh, no one has told me that there’s any major reserves in the Everglades, but maybe that’s one of the things I need to learn while I’m down here,” Mr. Thompson said after talking over state issues with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

Mr. Thompson, who has called for seeking U.S. oil resources wherever they exist, was asked by an Associated Press reporter whether that included drilling in the Everglades.

“I’m not going to start out by taking this, that or the other off the table in terms of our overall energy situation,” he said.

Mr. Thompson declined to rule out oil drilling in the Everglades, but did say it would be “a pretty drastic situation.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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