Craig returns to US Senate in midst of sex scandal

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WASHINGTON, Sep 18 (Reuters) Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, ensnared in a men's room sex sting, returned to the floor of the US Senate today for the first time since his June arrest was revealed last month.

''He is here representing Idaho, working on transition, and meeting with his legal team,'' Craig's spokesman, Dan Whiting, told Reuters.

As Craig stood on the Republican side of the Senate, several fellow Republicans approached him, shook his hand and held conversations. At least one Democrat also spoke to him.

Craig, 62, a three-term conservative senator, announced last month that he would resign from the Senate by September 30 if his name is not cleared by then. His departure, however, would not change the Democrats' control of the Senate.

Last month, Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct stemming from his June 11 arrest in a men's room at a Minneapolis airport. An undercover police officer accused Craig of using foot and hand signals that are thought to indicate a willingness to engage in sex.

But since announcing his resignation, which came amid intense pressure from fellow Senate Republicans, Craig has mounted an effort to take back his guilty plea, saying he entered it without consulting a lawyer and in an attempt to quietly get the misdemeanor charge behind him.

Craig insists he did nothing wrong.

A hearing in a Minnesota court is set for September 26.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday urged that Craig be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, saying the sting operation was probably unconstitutional.

The police operation was designed ''to make as many arrests as possible; arrests that sometimes unconstitutionally trap innocent people,'' said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. ''If the police really want to stop people from having sex in public bathrooms, they should put up a sign banning sex in the restroom and send in a uniformed officer to patrol periodically. That works,'' he added.

Craig appeared on the Senate floor during a vote on an education amendment, which was held just before Republicans' weekly lunch to discuss pending matters.

Besides his court case, a Senate ethics committee investigation also is pending.


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