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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Idaho Senator Larry Craig to Reconsider Resignation?
Aired September 4, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The bulletin came in just about an hour ago, and, frankly, it was so surprising, we made a swing of calls to see if it could possibly be a mistake. There is no mistake.
Senator Larry Craig, accused of seeking sex in a men's room, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and who maintains he is gay, may not, in fact, be stepping down. To call it a 180 might not be strictly accurate, after you hear what we are about to play you.
But, at the very least, it is a backflip with a political triple twist. This is what Senator Craig said at home in Boise, Idaho, over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: To Idahoans I represent, to my staff, my Senate colleagues, but most importantly, to my wife and my family, I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry.
It is with sadness and deep regret that I announced that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective September 30.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It is all about that one little word, intent. Talk about wiggle room and talk about the breaking news tonight. The Craig people have put out a statement.
CNN's Candy Crowley has it. She joins us now from New Hampshire.
Candy, what are they saying?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, still some wiggle room here, but it is emphasis on a different side of this from Craig spokesman Dan Whiting.
"As he stated on Saturday, Senator Craig intends to resign on September 30. However, he is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may -- and I emphasize may -- not resign."
So, very unclear tonight, but I can tell you this is not going over well with Republicans. Part of it appears to have been pushed forward by Senator Arlen Specter, himself a former prosecutor, who, on Sunday, suggested that perhaps Craig could have fought these charges, that he would have been found innocent. The AP is reporting that, in fact, Specter and Craig have talked, and there was some suggestion that this is what has pushed Craig into perhaps rethinking this decision.
Now, I can tell you it is not being treated well by others in the Republican leadership. Our Dana Bash has been on the phone with several key aides. One of them in the congressional leadership, the Republican leadership, told her that this would make disappear all the goodwill that Larry Craig may have built up by Republicans. He compared him to a fish out of water, gasping for the last breath of political air.
So, as you can imagine, this is something that the Republicans thought they had put behind them. Senator Mitch McConnell said as early as today -- as late as today, listen, this is behind us. We will have a new Idaho senator soon. We expect him to resign.
So, this is being read very carefully around the political world in Washington -- Anderson.
COOPER: No doubt about that. Candy, stay with us.
We have in-depth reporting on this story tonight. We will also be taking calls. The toll-free number is 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639.
First, I want to also bring in CNN's Joe Johns and legal -- senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Joe, first of all, let's -- I want to play for our viewers what Arlen Specter said over the weekend on a news program about what he thought about Craig's resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I would still like to see Senator Craig fight this case. He left him some -- himself some daylight, Chris, when he said that he intends to resign in 30 days.
I would like to see Larry Craig go back to court, seek to withdraw his guilty plea, and fight the case. I have had some experience in -- with these kinds of matters since my days as Philadelphia district attorney. And, on the evidence, Senator Craig wouldn't be convicted of -- of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joe, he said that on FOX News to Chris Wallace on Sunday.
That -- that message, Joe, seems to have resonated loudly with Senator Craig.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure.
I mean, and there are people who say, if you look at the transcript of the conversation with the police officer who arrested him, Larry Craig really never admitted to anything. And that's something people around this town have talked about just a bit.
Also, the senator there, Specter, was probably alluding to the fact that there are ways -- there is some wiggle room in here where a defendant who has already pled guilty can actually go back and say, OK, I -- I don't want to do that anymore. And that's what they're leaning on.
There -- clearly, there's this question going around town about right to counsel. You know, Larry Craig signed a document -- it was a mail-in plea. And there are a lot of questions about that document. He made it clear that he did not have an attorney who was representing him when he was filling out the forms.
And no attorney signed the form. So, perhaps the first part -- place to start looking on this is the issue of right to counsel, if Larry Craig wants to go that way. But it's important to note, we don't have any knowledge right now or information that Senator Craig has actually gone into court and asked to try to remove that plea and start over. So, you know, the next move is his.
COOPER: Luckily, we have an attorney on hand, Jeffrey Toobin, standing by.
First of all, OK, he says he's going to fight these charges. Can he fight these charges? He didn't have a lawyer present when he pled guilty...
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he can.
COOPER: ... though -- though his Miranda rights were read to him.
Well, he can make a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The question is, can that be successful? And, under Minnesota law, there -- as I understand it, there are only two grounds on which you can have a guilty plea withdrawn. One is coercion, that you were forced somehow to plead guilty.
The other is incompetence, that you didn't understand what you were doing, you didn't understand English, you were under mental illness. I certainly don't believe that Craig's situation falls within either of those.
COOPER: Does the coercion have to be from a representative of the state? Can he say he was being coerced by the -- the Idaho newspaper, which had printed this series of stories about him?
TOOBIN: Well, he can say that. I don't -- I mean, what coercion usually means is, you know, your co-defendant says, if you don't plead guilty, I'm going to kill you. That's coercion.
The state threatening to bring you to trial and embarrass you and give you a long sentence, that happens in every case. That's why people plead guilty. That's not coercion. So, I don't see the coercion line working at all. I suppose the argument he could make is some sort of incompetence, in the sense that he didn't have advice of counsel. But...
COOPER: And that he was so flustered by the -- by the arrest, that he didn't think clearly.
TOOBIN: That -- that is the argument. But that strikes me as an extremely implausible argument for a United States senator to make, who clearly had access to an attorney, if he wanted it, but who made what the government will say was a reasoned, knowing decision to waive counsel, plead guilty.
I mean, remember, he signed a form. That means it's used all the time. That's why it's a form. So, the idea that this form is somehow unacceptable as a form of a -- of a guilty plea, you know, again, seems unlikely.
COOPER: I remember, on an earlier program, you pointing out that he essentially stood in front of a judge and swore that what he was telling the judge, that his guilty plea was true.
TOOBIN: That's what the form says, exactly. I mean, the form says, "I am pleading guilty because I am guilty, and will not claim that I am innocent."
So, you know, again, he can say he was somehow coerced into signing that form or he didn't understand what he was signing. But, you know, we're not talking about an illiterate immigrant who didn't speak English. I mean, those -- how incompetence sometimes rises.
TOOBIN: This is a United States senator.
COOPER: His earlier argument, too, wasn't that he didn't understand what was happening. It was that he just wanted to make it all go away.
TOOBIN: That's why people plead guilty in court, is to get it over with. But that's not an excuse to get your guilty plea set aside.
You know, I think, listening to what Senator Specter said, Senator Specter, I think, is right, that if this case had gone to trial, Craig might have had a real defense. He might even have won his case.
But that's not where we are here. He's pled guilty. The case is over. He's trying the extraordinary remedy -- or talking about trying the extraordinary remedy -- of withdrawing a guilty plea. That's an entirely different situation. And I don't see any legal ground for Craig to do that.
COOPER: We -- our coverage is going to continue into our next block. Candy, I want to ask you, once the -- we're on the other side of this commercial, about when he might have made this decision, because we're now seeing some evidence there's a phone call that Craig made, a wrong phone -- he left a voice mail on an incorrect number. That has been reported and confirmed to be from Senator Craig.
We're going to play that, read that out to -- to our viewers. It does give a sense that, even before his resignation speech, he was already considering changing the wording of the resignation speech to give him some wiggle room. We will talk about that on the other break.
We're also going to be a taking your calls, 877-648-3639. You can e-mail us also, CNN.com/360.
What do you think? Should he resign? Should he fight this? You can go to -- you can also send us a v-mail. You can go to the same page and do it that way.
Our continuing in-depth coverage in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG: There are many challenges facing Idaho that I am currently involved in. And the people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to the critical issues of our state and of our nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was part of what sounded a lot like a resignation speech from Senator Larry Craig. It happened this weekend.
Then again, maybe that's not what it was -- a spokesman tonight saying the senator might not resign.
Here's the full statement from Dan Whiting. He says -- quote -- "As he stated on Saturday, Senator Craig intends to resign on September 30. However, he is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may -- and I emphasize may -- not resign."
We're taking your calls on this shortly, the toll-free number, 877-648-3639.
Our panel is here with us, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Candy Crowley, and also Joe Johns in Washington.
Candy, that statement that he made is fascinating. In it, he said that he intended to resign, effective September 30. And he says the reason for that date was -- quote -- "In doing so, I hope to allow a smooth and orderly transition of my loyal staff and for the person appointed to take my place at William E. Borah's desk. I have full confidence that Governor Otter will appoint a successor who will serve Idaho with distinction." He basically was saying he was delaying the actual stepping-down to help his staff out. He made no mention at that time, though, clearly, what we know now is, he was thinking about inserting that "intend" in order to give him wiggle room.
CROWLEY: We do, in fact, know that this was also 30 days of thinking time for Larry Craig, and perhaps 30 days to try to get his ducks in a row legally.
As you know, in that statement and the statement that he made prior to that, he has always claimed that he was innocent of these charges, that he just felt under pressure to sign that statement to -- quote -- "make it go away."
But, clearly, there were other things in the senator's mind. And I think, if you go back and listen to that statement, as he said, it was very clear at the time he emphasized the word "It is my intent to resign."
So, he was very clear, and -- and perhaps because the handwriting on the wall was writ so large by the Republican leaders. It looked completely inevitable that he would go. And, so, the emphasis on intent was overlooked sort of in the larger story, which was that he was going and had been pressured...
COOPER: Well, I...
CROWLEY: ... by the Republican leadership.
COOPER: I certainly overlooked it. I know...
CROWLEY: And, clearly, intent meant something.
COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, a greater legal mind than I, overlooked it as well.
TOOBIN: We were broadcasting live on CNN on Saturday. And I was listening as he was talking.
And, you know, it just completely went by me, the word "intend." I mean, I took that, and it was reported everywhere, as a resignation speech.
COOPER: And what's -- Joe, what's -- what's significant about that now is that we now know, because of this voice mail that Craig inadvertently left on a voice mail machine on Saturday morning that, all along, he wanted to insert this wiggle room.
And we have a full-screen of the voice mail. We don't have the actual voice mail. This is "Roll Call," a Capitol political newspaper, printed this.
"Yes, Billy, this is Larry Craig calling. You can reach me on my cell. Arlen Specter is now willing to come out in my defense, arguing that it appears, by all that he knows, that I have been railroaded and all that.
"Having all of that, we have reshaped my statement a little bit to say it is my intent to resign on September 30. I think it is important for you to make as bold a statement as you are comfortable with this afternoon, and I would hope you could make it in front of the cameras."
It goes on. It goes on and on.
But what is significant, Joe, about this is that, clearly, at least Saturday morning, based on this voice mail, he, you know, was -- already had this in mind, although that's not the explanation he gave in the actual speech.
JOHNS: Certainly, that's true.
And it's also interesting. You saw the reference to Billy there. We can't say for sure, but we do know that he has some very fine attorneys, including Billy Martin, who's basically one of the reconstituted components of the team that helped Monica Lewinsky through that process, you will remember.
Martin was called her minister of defense. And he recently, as you know, represented Michael Vick in his legal troubles. He's also got Judy Smith, a former spokesman from the White House, handling legal communications.
And he has Stan Brand, a top-shelf former House counsel, working on the ethics issues. He represented, among others, Dan Rostenkowski. So, Brand's job would be, of course, to fight this thing on ethics grounds, and say to the Senate Ethics Committee, they have no business meddling with a misdemeanor that had nothing to do with the Senate.
COOPER: So -- so, was he lying in his so-called resignation speech on Saturday when he said that, well, it's September 30 because I want to give time for my staff to -- to regroup and, you know, find other work?
JOHNS: It sounds like wiggle room. It sounds like he's leaving open the possibility, trying to show that he is willing to fight this thing, if people think he ought to go ahead and fight it.
Of course, he's got a lot of legal battles ahead, if he wants to do this, really, a gauntlet. The Senate Ethics Committee, obviously, could be looking into his conduct and whether it's conduct that negatively reflected on the Senate. Those are charges along the lines of what Senator Bob Packwood faced when he was accused of repeated sexual harassment.
There have also, as you know, been threats of hearings into the Craig matter, which could be just excruciating. And that, of course, would be similar, as well, to what happened to -- to Senator Packwood, as well.
TOOBIN: And he has already been stripped of his committee assignments by the Republican -- his -- his Republican colleagues. So, if he stays in the Senate, he's not going to have much to do as a senator, except take votes on the floor.
And let me add another wrinkle here. If you listen to what his spokesman said, the spokesman says, if he gets it resolved by September 30, then maybe he won't resign.
Well, the legal system doesn't work that quickly. There's no way he could seek to have his guilty plea withdrawn -- the government, of course, would object. The judge would hold a hearing and take evidence. That can't possibly be resolved by September 30, considering he hasn't even filed a request yet. So, I -- I don't know what's -- the thinking is there.
COOPER: There's a lot more to talk about, in terms of what the -- why the Republicans' leadership was so quick to essentially throw this guy under the bus, when they have supported others in the past charged with different sorts of -- of improprieties, you might say.
We're going to talk about that with our panel.
But, because the tape of Senator Craig and the Minneapolis Airport police sergeant, Dave Karsnia, figures really so centrally into all this, we want to play it for you in full, so you can decide for yourself what the senator did and did not do, and, frankly, whether or not these charges should have been brought up in the first place.
I mean, there's a real question, Jeffrey Toobin, right now, why were the police even in this bathroom conducting this sort of an operation? Is this really the kind of thing that -- that should be high on their agenda?
TOOBIN: It's interesting, as this story has evolved.
In recent days, once it's been clear that Craig was on his way out, people on the left politically have been raising the question of, you know, what the heck is the Minneapolis Police doing, you know, trying to police people tapping on bathroom stalls? You know, what harm were they doing?
I mean, yes, if people are having sex in public bathrooms, that's a problem. But, if they are just exchanging these cryptic signals to other consensual tappers, what -- why -- why is that the business of law enforcement?
COOPER: With that in mind, as we're looking at this mug shot, let's listen to the tape made shortly after his arrest.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DAVE KARSNIA, INVESTIGATIVE SERGEANT: Do you wish to talk to us at this time? CRAIG: I do.
KARSNIA: OK. I just want to start off with a your side of the story, OK? So...
CRAIG: So, I go into the bathroom here, as I normally do. I'm a commuter through here.
CRAIG: I sit down to go to the bathroom. And you said our feet bumped. I believe they did, because I reached down and scooted over, and the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says "Police."
Now, that's about as far as I can take it. I don't know of anything else. Your foot came toward mine. Mine came towards yours. Was that natural? I don't know. Did we bump? Yes. I think we did. You said so. I don't disagree with that.
KARSNIA: OK. I don't want to get into a pissing match here.
CRAIG: We're not going to.
CRAIG: I don't -- I am not gay. I don't do these kinds of things and...
KARSNIA: That doesn't matter. I don't care about sexual preference or anything like that.
Here's your stuff back, sir. I don't care about sexual preference.
CRAIG: I know you don't. You're out to enforce the law.
CRAIG: But you shouldn't be out to entrap people either.
KARSNIA: This isn't entrapment.
CRAIG: All right.
KARSNIA: You -- you're -- you're skipping some parts here, but what about your hand?
CRAIG: What about it? I reached down with my foot like this. There was a piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up.
KARSNIA: OK. CRAIG: What about my hand?
KARSNIA: Well, you're not being truthful with me. I'm kind of disappointed in you, Senator. I'm really disappointed right now.
OK? I'm not -- just so you know, just like everybody...
KARSNIA: I treat with dignity. I try to pull them away from the situation.
KARSNIA: ... not embarrass them.
CRAIG: I appreciate that.
KARSNIA: And I...
CRAIG: And you did that after (INAUDIBLE) out of the stall.
KARSNIA: I will say every person I have had so far has told me the truth. We have been respectful to each other, and then they have gone on their way. And I have never had to bring anybody to jail because everybody's been truthful to me.
CRAIG: I don't want you to take me to jail. And I think...
KARSNIA: I'm not going to take you to jail as long as you be cooperative, but I -- I'm not going to lie. We...
CRAIG: Did my hand come below the divider? Yes, it did.
KARSNIA: OK. Sir, we deal with people that lie to us every day.
CRAIG: I'm sure you do.
KARSNIA: I'm sure you do too, sir.
CRAIG: And, gentleman, so do I.
KARSNIA: I'm sure you do. We deal with a lot of people that are very bad people. You're not a bad person.
CRAIG: No, I don't think I am.
KARSNIA: OK. So what I'm telling you is, I don't want to be lied to.
So, we will start over. You're going to get out of here. You're going to have to pay a fine, and that will be it. OK? And I don't call media. I don't do any of that type of crap.
KARSNIA: All right, so let's start from the beginning. You went in the bathroom.
CRAIG: I went in the bathroom.
KARSNIA: And then what did you do when you...
CRAIG: I stood beside the wall, waiting for a stall to open. I got in the stall, sat down. I started going to the bathroom. Did our feet come together? Apparently, they did bump. Well, I won't dispute that.
KARSNIA: OK. When I got out of the stall, I noticed other -- other stalls were open.
CRAIG: They were at the time. At the time I entered, I -- I -- at the time I entered, I stood and waited.
CRAIG: They were all busy, you know?
KARSNIA: Were you right at me while you were waiting? I could see your eyes. I saw you playing with your fingers, then look up, play with your fingers, and then look up.
CRAIG: Did I glance at your stall? I was glancing at a stall right beside yours waiting for a fellow to empty it. I saw him stand up. And, therefore, I thought it was going to empty.
KARSNIA: How long do you think you stood outside the stalls?
CRAIG: Oh, a minute or two at the most.
KARSNIA: OK. And, when you went in the stall, then what?
CRAIG: Sat down.
KARSNIA: OK. Did you do anything with your feet?
CRAIG: Positioned them, I don't know. I don't know at the time. I'm a fairly wide guy.
KARSNIA: I understand.
CRAIG: I tend to spread my legs...
CRAIG: ... when I lower my pants so they won't slide.
CRAIG: Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I -- I looked down once your foot was close to mine.
CRAIG: Did we bump? You said so. I don't recall that, but apparently we were close.
KARSNIA: Yeah. Well, your foot did touch mine, on my side of the stall.
CRAIG: All right.
KARSNIA: OK? And then with the hand. How many times did you put your hand under the stall?
CRAIG: I don't recall. I remember reaching down once -- there was a piece of toilet paper back behind me -- in picking it up.
KARSNIA: OK. Was your -- was your palm down or up when you were doing that?
CRAIG: I don't recall.
KARSNIA: OK. I recall your palm being up. OK?
CRAIG: All right.
KARSNIA: When you pick up a piece of paper off the ground, your palm would be down, when you pick something up.
CRAIG: Yeah, probably would be. I recall picking the paper up.
KARSNIA: And I know it's hard to describe here on tape, but, actually, what I saw was your fingers come underneath the stalls. You were actually touching the bottom of the stall divider.
CRAIG: I don't recall that.
KARSNIA: You don't recall...
CRAIG: I don't believe I did that. I don't.
KARSNIA: I saw -- I saw...
CRAIG: I don't do those things.
KARSNIA: I saw your left hand. And I could see the gold wedding ring when it when it went across. I could see that. On your left hand, I could see that.
CRAIG: Wait a moment. My left hand was over here.
KARSNIA: I saw -- there's a...
CRAIG: My right hand was next to you.
KARSNIA: I could tell it with my -- I could tell it was your left hand, because your thumb was positioned -- in a faceward motion, your thumb was on this side, not on this side.
CRAIG: Well, we can dispute that. I'm not going to fight you in court.
KARSNIA: But I -- I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper.
But I'm telling you that I could see that, so I know that's your left hand. Also, I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that it's obvious it was the left hand.
CRAIG: Yeah, OK. My left hand was in the direct opposite of the stall from you.
You -- you travel through here frequently, correct?
KARSNIA: I do, almost weekly.
KARSNIA: Have you been successful in these bathrooms here before?
CRAIG: I go to that bathroom regularly.
KARSNIA: I mean for any type of other activity?
CRAIG: No, absolutely not. I don't seek activity in bathrooms.
KARSNIA: It's embarrassing.
CRAIG: Well, it's embarrassing for both. But I'm not going to fight you. KARSNIA: I know you're not going to fight me, but that's not the point. I would respect you. And I still respect you. I don't disrespect you. But I'm disrespected right now.
And I'm not tying to act like I have all kinds of power or anything, but you're sitting here lying to a police officer.
KARSNIA: That is not a (INAUDIBLE) I'm getting from somebody else. I'm...
KARSNIA: I have been trained in this.
KARSNIA: I have been trained in this, and I know what I am doing.
KARSNIA: And I saw you put your hand under there. And you're going to sit there and...
CRAIG: I admit I put my hand down.
KARSNIA: You put your hand and rubbed it on the bottom of the stall with your left hand.
CRAIG: No. Wait a moment.
KARSNIA: And I'm -- I'm not dumb. You can say, I don't recall...
CRAIG: If I had turned sideways, that was the only way I could get my left hand over there.
KARSNIA: It's not that hard for you to reach...
KARSNIA: It's not that hard. I see it happen every day out here now.
CRAIG: (INAUDIBLE) You do. All right.
KARSNIA: I'm just -- I'm just -- I guess -- I guess I'm going to say I'm just disappointed in you, sir. I just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. But, I mean -- I mean, people vote for you.
CRAIG: Yes, they do. (CROSSTALK)
KARSNIA: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
CRAIG: And I'm a respectable person. And I don't do these kinds of...
KARSNIA: ... respect right now, though.
CRAIG: But I didn't use my left hand.
KARSNIA: I saw...
CRAIG: I reached down with my right hand like this to pick up a piece of paper.
KARSNIA: Was your gold ring on your right hand at any time today?
CRAIG: Of course not. Try to get it off. Look at it.
KARSNIA: OK. Then it was your left hand. I saw it with my own eyes.
CRAIG: All right, you saw something that didn't happen.
KARSNIA: Embarrassing. Embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes.
Do you have anything to add?
NELSON: Uh, no.
KARSNIA: All right. It's embarrassing.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Central to all of this now is why he pled guilty.
That conversation, that arrest, took place in June.
Jeffrey Toobin is going to bring up a very important point on the other side of this break. When he actually pled guilty, you might have thought it was that same day, that he was just confused, wanted to get out of there. It wasn't. And the -- the timeline is very significant here.
We're taking your calls on this as well in just a moment. Our phone lines, a lot of folks calling in. Our panel is sticking around, too.
A break first. You're watching 360. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG: It is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective September 30.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, our panel is ready to take your calls about Senator Larry Craig.
Standing by are CNN's Candy Crowley, Joe Johns, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin -- the number, 877-648-3639.
Jeffrey, an important point, though, that you brought up which I hadn't realized, the arrest was on June 11. When was it that Craig actually pled guilty?
TOOBIN: This document that he signed pleading guilty is August 1. That's when he signed it.
So, he had almost two months to think it over. And it was only at that point that he decided to plead guilty, which makes it even harder to overturn the plea, because, you know, it would be one thing if, in the heat of the moment, just to get out of the airport, to get out of custody, he signed some papers without thinking about it.
No, that's not what happened. He...
COOPER: So he had weeks and weeks and weeks, more than -- more than June 11 to August 6, you said?
TOOBIN: Yes, August 1 is when he signed it, yes.
COOPER: To think about it.
TOOBIN: To think about it. And this document couldn't be clearer. Section 4, "I understand that the court will not accept a plea of guilty from anyone who claims to be innocent."
Section 5, "I now make no claim that I am innocent of the charge to which I am entering a plea of guilty."
Now he comes back and says, "I'm innocent"? It's just -- you can see why judges are reluctant to accept that kind of...
COOPER: Got a couple of callers here. Let's go to Maurice in Washington, D.C.
Maurice, what's your comment?
COOPER: Hey, Maurice, you're on the air. What's your comment? CALLER: Yes, my comment is in reference to the senator. I just wanted to state that, you know, it's kind of absurd that this guy wants to retract his guilty plea just because of the fact this is a very intelligent man, and even when he was arrested, he tried to accuse the officer of entrapment. But if you're doing nothing, there's nothing to entrap.
The senator, you know, he was caught in a situation where he got nervous. He was exposed. And he saw the easy outlet by pleading guilty. Now that he's made that bed, he needs to lie in it. He should just resign, move out of Idaho, and continue with his homosexual urges in private.
COOPER: Maurice, appreciate your - your call.
Candy Crowley, why was the Republican leadership so quick to basically throw this guy under the bus? I mean, when other senators have been involved in -- you know, Senator Vitter, you know, admitted hiring prostitutes or at least a prostitute or having indiscretions, and he's still there?
CROWLEY: Well, it depends on who you'd like to listen to on this. The Democrats have begun to make the case that the reason Republicans were so quick to throw him overboard was the fact that this allegedly involved activity -- gay activity, homosexual activity, and that that, obviously, is something that does disturb a lot of people within the Republican base, the conservative base.
If you listen to the Republicans, they will say, listen, this is a man who pled guilty. Vitter's crimes, they say, if there were any, first of all, took place when he was in the house, but second of all, he never pled guilty to anything. So you have your choice there.
I think timing had something to do with it, as well. This was coming up on the fall when the Republicans wanted to turn the corner and tried to do what they can to salvage what may be a really bad election for them in 2008. They wanted to talk about other things. And then this came up.
So there were a lot of things that played into it.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, the other side of this, which, as you mentioned before, some people are starting to argue as the sort of this has settled in, I mean, how often is the state in the business of sending police into restrooms to tap their toes and look for these, you know, alleged signals?
TOOBIN: Well, sometimes -- and the interesting point is, along the lines of what Candy was saying, it almost always is in the context of gay cruising spots. I mean, that's where the police get involved.
You know, in lovers' lanes where, you know, straight people are having sex or whatever, the cops tend to, you know, bang a nightstick on the window and tell you to get lost. But in -- in, you know, in these gay cruising spots, they tend to arrest people.
You know, that is a fact of life that I think a lot of people don't approve of. But it is -- that's how the police tend to work.
COOPER: We've got another call. Zach in North Carolina. Zach?
CALLER: Good evening, folks.
I think what's lost in a lot of this discussion -- and I'm not taking the side of Senator Craig or anything else -- but what disturbs me is -- and Tom DeLay was interviewed the other day, and he said, you know, we -- the Republicans, we get rid of these guys.
What disturbs me is, this is -- he's an elected representative by the people of his state. He's sent there to represent them. It's not really up to the Republican Party to decide to throw him out. That, I think, is the -- is the choice of the people whom he represents.
Now, sure, there are cases, in extreme cases, where the Senate has to police itself. I understand that. But I would think that's a last resort in an elected democracy. I think this guy, he made a lot of mistakes.
COOPER: You think it should be up to the people in his state, Zach? Appreciate that call.
Well, Joe Johns, what about that?
JOHNS: Well, basically, what's going on here is, assuming he goes ahead and resigns on September 30, then the process begins there, whereby the governor of the state actually appoints a person to serve. It would certainly be very briefly, because he'd be up in 2008. Some suggestion that might be the lieutenant governor of the state.
So that's the process that's in place, quite frankly, for United States senators. There's -- there's an appointment until you get to an election or whatever. That's just the way it's set up.
COOPER: To Zach's point, though, it will be interesting to see if, in the coming days, there is a growing sympathy for Senator Craig. Whether people like the senator or not, or whether they feel that there's been a rush to judgment or not.
Again, to use a cliche, only time will tell. What we were hearing immediately, and Candy Crowley, we're going to talk to this on the other side of the commercial break, you're hearing, and Dana Bash has been reporting, Joe Johns is hearing from a lot of GOP folks, they are certainly not happy the senator may be reconsidering. We'll have some of that and more of your calls in just a moment.
We'll take a short break.
COOPER: We've been covering the breaking news tonight about Senator Larry Craig, that he may not resign after all. Our panelists taking your calls. CNN's Candy Crowley, Joe Johns and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Lee Ann in North Carolina is on the line.
Lee Ann, good evening.
CALLER: Good evening. Hi.
I would like to know the opinion of your panelists and yourself as to how would the Republican Party be affected? How would they react with Craig's complete 180? And also, how could a Democratic candidate, besides just stand there, translate this into votes?
COOPER: Candy, let's start with you.
CROWLEY: Well, what we know so far is they're not taking it very well, this through sources, a couple of them who have confirmed that Craig, in fact, did call around on Capitol Hill to colleagues, trying to sort of gauge their support.
A congressional aide tonight told Dana Bash it would not be -- would not serve Senator Craig well to rethink this decision that would lose any good will he has built up with his colleagues, compared him to a fish out of water, struggling for a last breath of political air.
So this, obviously, coming from someone who is in leadership, and the leadership tried very hard to get him out.
I can tell that you they are not at all happy to have this come up again. You heard Senator Mitch McConnell today saying, "Well, this is over and done with. He's resigned. We expect him to resign, and we're going to get a new senator." So not well is the answer to how are they taking it.
COOPER: Joe Johns, will this be made much of by the Democrats, or are they going to kind of stand on the side and kind of just let it all unfurl?
JOHNS: Well, they certainly stood on the side all along, Anderson. But it's interesting to note that a lot of Democrats would love to see Senator Craig stick around for a while because, as you move closer and closer to next year's elections, they want someone to be able to point to and say, "Here's problems in the Republican Party that are very evident. They've been around for a while."
As you know, in the last election cycle, the Democrats ran on the so-called culture of corruption among Republicans and ended up doing very well. So Democrats would like to see that.
That said, you know, Idaho is, to use Candy's word, just a ruby red state. It is a state that has been controlled by Republicans for a very long time. Senator Craig, before all of this, was very well liked, but the fact of the matter is, in all likelihood, a Republican will certainly be appointed to that seat, should Craig go ahead and resign. And then after that, very likely that a Republican will end up getting elected back to the seat.
COOPER: Got Melvin in Minnesota on the line. Melvin, what's your point or question?
CALLER: My concern is with the dialogue between Senator Craig and also the police officer. When he was interrogating Senator Craig, he accused Senator Craig of lying. Then he goes on to say that "I would expect this from a guy in the hood, but not from you."
And to me, it's an insult for every resident of the city of Minneapolis to infer that they're not truthful and they're liars.
COOPER: I hear what you're saying. Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: Well, one thing about -- that's important to remember about that audio interview is that's not the only evidence in the case. If that was the only evidence in the case, Senator Craig probably would never be charged. I mean, he doesn't really admit to anything, and there's really not much there.
If you like look at the arrest report, it suggests that Senator Craig did a heck of a lot more than he just tap his fingers, that he sort of lingered outside the door and tried to, you know, exchange looks with the person, that this went on for many minutes, and there was a lot of contact between...
COOPER: What do you think of the tone, though, of the officer during the entire interrogation?
TOOBIN: Maybe because I used to be in law enforcement I am a little desensitized to these things. I didn't think it was an unduly hostile interrogation, and especially to an intelligent man who's capable of defending himself. I didn't think it was abusive and insulting.
COOPER: The caller was certainly taking issue with the term "in the hood," and all that that would bring up.
Candy, any final thoughts on this?
CROWLEY: Well, I can tell you that this -- what this does for Republicans as a whole is to push this story into another day, another week while this kind of hangs over them.
I agree with Jeffrey that it now seems that what they're saying is, if the senator can clear his name in court and in the ethics committee, that he might not resign. So this maybe, in the end, just take us back to where we were, and he'll resign on the 30th. I have never known either the wheels of justice or the Senate Ethics Committee to move that quickly.
COOPER: Candy Crowley, Joe Johns, Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate all your expertise.
And to all our callers, very much appreciate your time. I hope you got your calls answered.
Up next, we have more breaking news. The most famous American aviator since Charles Lindbergh, probably, crossed the Atlantic and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon is missing right now. The latest on the search now under way for millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett is next on 360.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight, the search for aviator and multimillionaire Steve Fossett.
He took off about 9 yesterday morning at an air strip at Barron Hilton's Flying M Ranch, about 70 miles southeast of Reno. He was flying solo in a small single-engine prop plane -- there it is -- surveying dry lakebeds in the area for an upcoming land speed record.
Crews have been searching all day. More than a dozen aircraft, teams on the ground, but as you can see, there's a lot of ground to cover.
With us now from Minden, Nevada, is CNN's Ted Rowlands.
Ted, where's the search stand?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they continue to search, but right now still no sign of Steve Fossett. And as you can imagine, a lot of concern about his well-being.
It is very windy here, and that did hamper search efforts today a little bit in that it was very difficult for them to see, because the planes that they were searching with were bouncing so much because of the turbulence and the wind conditions.
That said, they were out in force all day today and searching what they describe as sort of a needle in a haystack scenario, 600 square miles using a grid-type search approach, trying to see any sign of Steve Fossett.
His plane had about four to five hours' worth of fuel, so they've held -- they've used that information to help with their search coordination. He did have an emergency beacon on this plane, as well. That has not been deployed. It's good news and bad news.
If there was a major crash, that would have gone off automatically. That's good news. But sort of bad news because, if he were -- if he did land it, he could have deployed it himself manually. Maybe something's wrong with it. They just simply don't know.
What they do know is that, if anyone were to be missing, Steve Fossett is the guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. CYNTHIA S. RYAN, MISSION PIO: The comment was made by one of the people who knows Mr. Fossett quite well that he's been known to walk out 30 miles when he got into trouble a couple of times. And so he's -- he's a very savvy and methodical and determined pilot. And I'd give him the highest odds. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Fossett, of course, has world records in aviation, not only for flying planes but for balloons and gliders. He also has world records in sailing, even cross-country skiing.
This is a guy who ran the Iditarod sled dog race, also even swam the English Channel, so he is equipped to survive if, indeed, it comes to that, and that is providing a lot of optimism.
That said, there is a lot of concern, as well. His wife is in the area, we are told, and everybody is waiting word as to his fate. They'll continue to fly tonight until 11 p.m., Anderson, and then they'll be at it tomorrow night, assuming nothing breaks tonight, early in the morning.
COOPER: All right. Ted Rowlands, we'll continue to follow the search. It would be sadly ironic if this were to be his last flight. He's one of the big names, of course, in aviation at a time when most people thought all the big names, from Charles Lindbergh to Howard Hughes to Chuck Yeager, were long gone.
COOPER (voice-over): Breaking records, risking his life. Steve Fossett has found fame and a fair share of criticism doing both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Steve. A beautiful morning.
COOPER: To some, he's a thrill-seeking dare devil. To others, just rich and restless. But for Fossett, his reasons are simple enough.
STEVE FOSSETT, AVIATION ADVENTURER: I see myself as an adventurer. And I like to do something unique in adventure and exploration. That might be doing something first, or it might be doing something the fastest or the farthest or the highest.
COOPER: He should know. This businessman has been married for nearly 40 years and made his fortune in commodities trading. For decades he has sailed, soared and flown his way into history. By last count, he set more than 100 world records.
His feats are impressive. A few have nearly killed him.
In 2002, Fossett became the first person to ever fly solo around the world nonstop in a balloon. The mission covered more than 20,000 miles in 14 days. It also included a fire that broke out in the cabin. And it followed other attempts that almost ended in catastrophe, with crashes in Russia and the Coral Sea.
In 2005, Fossett was at it again: the first person to fly around the world in a jet without refueling. During the voyage, Fossett communicated with backer and fellow billionaire adventurer Sir Richard Branson.
SIR RICHARD BRANSON, CEO, VIRGIN: You're feeling good, anyway?
FOSSETT: Yes, I feel good.
COOPER: Last year he made the same trip, breaking the world's flight distance record. Before taking off, he described how dangerous it would be.
FOSSETT: I have set a goal which is at the very limit in this aircraft. If I've miscalculated to any extent, I will be unable to finish this flight. But I have -- I think I have even chances of having a complete success.
COOPER: Aside from aviation, Fossett holds more than a dozen sailing titles. He also swam the English Channel and took part in the Iditarod race in Alaska.
Now he's missing. While the search efforts for Fossett continue, Sir Richard Branson believes his good friend is alive, saying, quote, "Steve is a tough old boot. I suspect he's waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up."
What we do know is that the man who soared to new heights doing what he loved is nowhere to be found.
COOPER: And we will continue to follow the search as it progresses.
Up next on the program, other stories making headlines, including another major recall from toymaker Mattel.
Plus, a note to Michael Vick he was allegedly reading during his emotional news conference on dog fighting charges. Guess what's happening to him now? That story coming up next.
COOPER: Erica Hill joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, it is perhaps a huge break in the war on terror. Police from the Danish Security Intelligence Service say they have prevented a, quote, terror act. They've arrested eight people they say were storing unstable explosives in a heavily populated area of Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.
The police say the suspects are militant Islamists with links to al Qaeda.
Toymaker Mattel is gearing up for another recall. Tomorrow Mattel will recall a Fisher-Price toy and accessories -- several Fisher-Price toys and accessories, as well as a Barbie play set. Those toys were made in China and may contain excessive amounts of lead paint.
Mattel had two major recalls earlier this summer.
Some mixed news from Detroit. Automaker GM is up. Ford, though, is down. GM surprised investors by posting a 6 percent sales increase last month, helping domestic brands reclaim the majority of U.S. sales, but Ford, meantime, saw its U.S. sales fall 14 percent in August.
And up for auction on eBay, Michael Vick's apology. According to the posting, the note was found on the podium where the embattled football star apologized for participating in dog fighting. That note lists the different people and organizations Vick allegedly wanted to apologize to. At the bottom are the words "dogs have suffered."
That note is being auctioned by the Humane Society. It's already fetched several hundreds of dollars in bids, Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. Note to self, always take your notes with you.
Now "The Shot". In case you missed it, America has a new fastest Chihuahua. Watch closely.
The race was just 1/18 of a furlong, about 35 feet. Fifteen tiny athletes there -- oh -- competed in San Diego over the weekend. Maddy from New York City won. There she is, 2 years old, weighs 4 1/2 pounds, crossed the finish line in just two seconds.
Here again in slow motion. Can we look at it? A lot of the competitors didn't actually stay in their own lanes. We're not sure if that disqualifies them. Either way, Maddy won paws down.
We want you to send us your "Shot" idea. If you see some dogs running or amazing video, tell us about it: CNN.com/360. We'll put some of those clips on the air.
COOPER: Up next, more of our breaking news tonight. Senator Larry Craig may reconsider his resignation. Our panel of experts weighs in.
And the missing pilot. The search for adventurer Steve Fossett.
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