BOISE, Idaho — Sen. Larry Craig, R-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.
Craig 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 Sunday 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.”
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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.”
Mark Johnson of NBC affiliate KTVB-TV contributed to this report.