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Top Republicans call for Sen. Stevens to resign

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell calls for Stevens to step down immediately
  • Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin also called for Alaska Republican to resign
  • Jury: Stevens didn't report home renovations paid for by head of oil-services firm
  • Longest-serving GOP senator in tight re-election fight
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has joined other top Republicans in calling for convicted Sen. Ted Stevens to resign.

Earlier on Tuesday both members of the Republican presidential ticket -- Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- as well as other Republican senators called on Stevens, R-Alaska, to step down.

While campaigning for re-election on Tuesday, McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, told reporters that Stevens should step down immediately, according to McConnell's spokesman Dom Stewart.

McConnell is in a tight race with his Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford.

Earlier in the day, McConnell said in a statement that Stevens "will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored." Video Watch what is next for Stevens »

Sen. John Ensign, the Nevada Republican who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, also issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday.

"I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace," Ensign said. "Sen. Stevens had his day in court and the jury found he violated the public's trust -- as a result he is properly being held accountable."

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, also called for Stevens to resign immediately.

In a statement, McCain said Stevens should step down because "has broken his trust with the people."

Palin said the time had come "for him to step aside."

"Even if elected on Tuesday, Sen. Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress," Palin said in a written statement.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, insists he is innocent and will continue to run for a seventh full term as he fights his conviction in court. Video Watch CNN's Kelli Arena explain the verdict »

He was convicted Monday on seven counts of failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and free work on his home in Alaska.

He could theoretically face up to 35 years in jail, although experts say it is unlikely he will serve anything near that much time, and may not be imprisoned at all.

Stevens is the first senator convicted of a felony since Harrison Williams, a New Jersey Democrat, was convicted on bribery charges in 1981. Senate rules do not require Stevens to resign his seat.

The 84-year-old senator is locked in a close race for re-election next week, trying to retain the seat he has held since 1968. It is too late for him to be removed from the ballot, and after his conviction he urged Alaskans to stand by him.

The latest polls show him neck and neck with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat.

The jury found Stevens failed to report about $250,000 in gifts and renovations to his house in Alaska between 1999 and 2006, paid for by the head of a large oil-services company. Members of the Senate are required to fill out forms each year stating what gifts they have received and from whom.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate said after Stevens' conviction that he must "face the consequences."

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said "Stevens must now respect the outcome of the judicial process and the dignity of the United States Senate."

But even if forced from office, Stevens remains eligible for an annual Senate pension estimated at $122,000. The acts for which he was convicted happened before the ethics rules passed in 2007 took effect -- and in any event, the charges he faced are not among the 10 specific felonies that would require him to forfeit his retirement pay.

After the jury's verdict was read, Stevens did not react in the courtroom but afterward blasted the prosecution in a statement for "repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case."

"This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial," he said.

"I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have. I am innocent."

The senator's attorneys twice sought to have the charges thrown out during the monthlong trial, accusing prosecutors of hiding evidence favorable to the defense. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected those efforts but faulted prosecutors for "hiding the ball."

The judge scheduled a hearing on any pending motions for February 25.

The charges against Stevens related to renovations on done by his longtime friend Bill Allen and Allen's oil industry services company, VECO Corp.

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Members of the Senate are required to fill out forms each year stating what gifts they have received and from whom.

Stevens' defense said Allen had quashed bills without the senator's knowledge. Allen testified that he had done so because he "liked Ted."

All About Ted StevensAlaskaBill Allen

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