Sen. Larry Craig had already decided not to seek re-election before revelations that he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a Minnesota sex sting, two of the Idaho Republican's political advisers claimed Thursday.
Before news of his arrest became public last month, Craig told his former chief of staff and long time confidante Gregory Casey that he was not going to run for re-election in 2008, Casey told CNN.
"He and Suzanne had decided that he had been in Congress long enough, and it was time for him to go home," Casey said, referring to Craig's wife.
In a separate interview, Craig spokesman Dan Whiting also confirmed to CNN that Craig had already decided not to run for re-election, and originally planned to announce that publicly in September.
Neither Casey nor Whiting could say when that decision was made, but Whiting insisted it was "well before all of this broke."
How long is "well before all this broke"? A month? Two? Before or after the arrest on June 8th?
How I long for a smart media, for journalists with a nose for news and can appreciate the wider implications of this story.
This goes to the heart of Craig's apparent retraction of his resignation, and the possibility that he's shilling for the Bush administration by providing them with a hot story to wipe General Petraeus's impending visit to Congress and the campaign Bush is waging to keep the war in Iraq going.
And, how is it that a U.S. senator was arrested for solicitation on June 8th, pleaded out on August 8th and the public doesn't learn about it until August 28th? And it wasn't a Minnesota (where the arrest was made) newspaper that broke the story, or an Idaho (Craig's home state) newspaper, but an inside-the-beltway, political insiders' publication, Roll Call. How did Roll Call learn of the arrest?
This disclosure comes as Craig's aides are trying to calm Republicans who are angry about what looked like backtracking on his decision to resign on September 30.
"Larry is not fighting to hold onto power here," said Casey, who insisted that the senator's main goal is to clear his name and reputation. "He is trying to figure out what he is doing for the rest of his life."
"There wasn't much of a notion in his mind," Whiting said. "Again, he is keeping a door open, but he is focused on clearing his name and making the transition as smooth as possible for Idaho."
Tuesday night, Whiting said "He is fighting these charges, and should he be cleared before then, he may, and I emphasize may, not resign."
Saying he "may not resign" left the impression that Craig was pushing to stay in the Senate, even after announcing his intent to resign.
That did not go over well with Republican leaders, who made it abundantly clear in public statements and private conversations that they want Craig to step down.
Now, Craig's spokesman sought to be more precise in his language about Craig's intentions, telling The Associated Press "the most likely scenario, by far, is that by October there will be a new senator from Idaho."
Whiting insists to CNN what he is saying is "nothing new,"
"All along we have said that [Craig] expects to resign on September 30 and he and the staff are working towards that end to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for Idaho," said Whiting. "I stated that he simply left a very, very small door slightly ajar."
However, the sources close to Craig concede they are now trying to be more clear that they do think Craig will resign, because they believe the impression was that Craig was trying to hold on to power.
Craig was arrested in a restroom in June at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on suspicion of making sexual advances to an undercover police officer in the next stall. He pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge last month.
In consultation with the Senate's GOP leadership, Craig last week agreed to leave his leadership posts on Senate committees while the Senate Ethics Committee investigates the incident.
Craig attorney Stanley Brand on Wednesday asked that the ethics committee not investigate because events were "wholly unrelated" to official duties.
But later Wednesday the Ethics Committee said it will continue its investigation.