WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Stevens, currently the subject of an FBI corruption probe, is questioning the modus operandi of the FBI in the daylong search of his home in Girdwood, Alaska, fellow western state colleague Sen. Larry Craig said Wednesday.
Craig said Stevens, who has avoided the press as much as possible working in his secluded Capitol hideaway office, told him that he had been informed by the FBI that he was under investigation and agents were going to search his home.
Stevens apparently recounted to Craig that he said okay and offered to send the agency a key to his house, but the FBI official who contacted Stevens refused the offer and instead said agents had ways of getting in on their own.
That's just what they proceeded to do on Monday when FBI and IRS officials showed up with a locksmith in tow. They were able to enter the home on their own, though an array of media were there to capture the scene for posterity.
"The story then became the FBI break-in into the home, the raid, when instead, if Ted had been able to give them the key, because he intended to cooperate, the story would be much differerent," Craig said, calling it appropriate to question the FBI's motive.
"Was the media told of ... William Jefferson's freezer raid?" Craig asked, referring to a raid on the Louisiana congressman's home in New Orleans that turned up $90,000 in cash wrapped in aluminum and stuffed into frozen food boxes.
"They appeared to stage an event for the sake of publicity. ... It would be very intimidating to me," Craig added.
Stevens originally had been under investigation over possible assistance he may have received for home remodeling from a business partner and owner of Alaska's largest oil engineering firm. VECO Inc. former CEO Bill Allen pleaded guilty in May to bribing state officials.
Stevens has not been charged, but the investigation has now spread to the Commerce and Interior departments, which are looking into questions about whether federal funds Stevens steered to an Alaska wildlife research center may have enriched a former aide. Stevens formerly headed the Senate Appropriations Committee, making him one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He is currently the ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee.
After the Monday raid, Stevens issued a statement insisting he did nothing wrong and saying he didn't want to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
On Capitol Hill this week, Stevens, 83, moved quickly while dodging questions from reporters. He appeared on the Senate floor on Wednesday looking tired after also attending a Commerce Committee hearing. Some interest groups had suggested he be stripped from his committee assignments while the probe is underway.
In his first speech since the raid, he briefly explained that he was absent from a morning vote because he was at Arlington National Cemetery for the internment services for Gen. Alan Brightwiser, a good friend of his whose top aide was with Stevens when the two survived an airplane crash in 1978 that killed Stevens' wife.
Afterward, when asked about the Craig account of his suspicions regarding the FBI, Stevens defiantly told FOX News, "You got my statement from my office." Pressed further, he quietly said, "I'm having a good day. How about you?"
FOX News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.