Sen. Larry Craig will get his day in a Minnesota court on September 26 – four days before he has said he intends to resign.
Craig will make his case for a reversal of his guilty plea in an airport sex sting. But it’s unknown if the judge will rule that same day, so Craig’s self-imposed deadline may pass without a resolution of his case.
Under Minnesota law, a guilty plea may be withdrawn if there is “manifest injustice” to which Senator Arlen Specter, one of Sen. Craig’s only defenders, said, “and that is defined that a plea can be withdrawn if it was not intelligently made,” Specter said. “And what Senator Craig did was by no means intelligent.”
Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. It was a deal-swap for dropping a misdemeanor charge of interference with privacy.
Two cases (and there may be more) in Minnesota case law may give Craig small reason to hope: State of Minnesota vs. Michelle Kim Gibson-Webb “reversed in part” a plea agreement, but the facts and details are very different from Craig’s case. And Jeffrey Allen Vernlund vs. State of Minnesota reversed a DUI guilty plea.
With the court date so close to the date Craig has said he’ll resign, the options for what he’ll do are many.
D.C. Republicans are white-hot with fury at Craig, a Senate staffer told NewWest.Net/Boise. “He’s like those trick birthday candles that won’t blow out,” she said. “Of all the times for a Republican senator to break ranks and fall out of formation, this wasn’t a good choice.”
In Idaho, the tenuous nature of Craig’s resignation, or non-resignation, leaves Gov. Butch Otter in an uncomfortable position of needing to choose his replacement, but not being able to tell that person to start packing.
The only way the Senate can actually throw him out is to formally expel him, and Senate Democrats are unlikely to go along with that. So how would party leaders and the Senate make him go away?
It might not happen. He can always change his resignation date – or cancel it – at his will. On September 30, he could modify the deal, depending on what happens in Minnesota courts. He could decide to fight the Ethics Committee, and he’d have to be a sitting senator to do that. He can simply refuse to resign and let the chips fall.
Remember that proverbial bus Craig got thrown under by his colleagues? For the time being, he’s driving it.