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Craig, officer argued, tape reveals

The Idaho senator is accused of lying while being questioned. More Republican colleagues move away from him.

August 31, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The police officer who arrested Sen. Larry Craig in an undercover operation in an airport men's room accused the senator of lying during his interrogation, according to an audiotape of the arrest released Thursday.

On the tape the Idaho Republican in turn accuses the officer of soliciting him for sex.

"I'm not gay. I don't do these kinds of things," Craig told Sgt. Dave Karsnia minutes after the two men met in a men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on June 11.

"You shouldn't be out to entrap people," Craig told the officer. "I don't want you to take me to jail."

Karsnia replied that Craig wouldn't be going to jail as long as he cooperated.

The two men disagreed about virtually everything that had occurred minutes earlier, including whether there was a piece of paper on the floor of the stall and the meaning of the senator's hand gestures. At no time did Craig admit doing anything wrong, although weeks later he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

"You're not being truthful with me," Karsnia told Craig during the interrogation. "I'm kind of disappointed in you, Senator."

Karsnia later told Craig that the senator was "sitting here lying to a police officer," adding: "I expect this from the guy we get out of the 'hood. I mean, people vote for you. Unbelievable."

Meanwhile, more of Craig's Republican colleagues distanced themselves from him Thursday.

Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the GOP's senatorial campaign committee, stopped short of calling on Craig to resign. "I wouldn't put myself hopefully in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that's what I would do," Ensign told the Associated Press. "He's going to have to answer that for himself."

Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Susan Collins of Maine each turned over to charity $2,500 in campaign donations they had received from Craig's political action committee. Coleman and Collins face potentially tough races for reelection next year.

Coleman and several other Republicans -- including Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- have called for Craig to resign his Senate seat. Craig already has agreed to a request by Republican leaders to give up his ranking status on the Veterans Affairs Committee and Appropriations subcommittees.

Craig said Tuesday that he had committed no wrongdoing and shouldn't have pleaded guilty. He said he had only recently retained a lawyer to advise him in the case, which threatens to write an ignominious end to a lifetime in public office.

Senate GOP leaders said they did not act lightly in asking Craig to give up his leadership posts temporarily. But they said their decision was "in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee."

On the tape, Craig and the arresting officer can be heard arguing over what had happened in the men's room minutes earlier. Craig acknowledges that the men's feet bumped but says nothing improper happened.

"Did we bump? Yes, I think we did. You said so. I don't disagree with that," Craig said.

But Craig disputes the officer's account that he swept his hand beneath the stall divider next to him in an apparent effort to advance the encounter. They even disagree whether Craig used his right or left hand.

Craig said he was trying to pick up a piece of paper, an account the officer disputes.

"I'm telling you that I could see, so I know that's your left hand. Also I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that's obvious it was the left hand," Karsnia tells Craig.

"Well we can dispute that," Craig says. "I'm not going to fight you in court. I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper."

Karsnia said in a police report that he recognized Craig's hand gesture as a signal for initiating sex. "It should be noted that there was not a piece of paper on the bathroom floor, nor did Craig pick up a piece of paper," he said in the report.

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