Sen. Mike Crapo is defending fellow Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, saying the Senate Ethics Committee rushed to judgment last week when it said Craig acted improperly in connection with a men's room sex sting last year and brought discredit on the Senate.
"We should withhold judgment and let him pursue his legal rights," Crapo told the Idaho Falls City Club on Tuesday.
Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August after he was accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in June.
After the matter became public, Craig tried to withdraw his plea. A judge in Minnesota refused, saying Craig's plea "was accurate, voluntary and intelligent, and ... supported by the evidence." Craig has appealed that ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Crapo said the committee should have waited until Craig's appeal had been ruled upon.
Senate Republicans demanded the ethics investigation after news broke of Craig's conviction last August. Craig first promised to resign Sept. 30, then reversed his decision. He now says he will stay in office until his term expires in January.
In a letter to the three-term Republican senator last week, the ethics panel, made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, said Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea after his arrest was an effort to evade legal consequences of his own actions.
Craig's actions constitute "improper conduct which has reflected discreditably on the Senate," the letter said.
Crapo denied that Craig was being shunned by fellow lawmakers, the Post Register reported.
"That simply is not true," Crapo said. "The other senators are working with Sen. Craig."
Craig, who lost several GOP leadership positions on Senate committees and subcommittees in the wake of the scandal, has been working with members of the Senate's environment committee on a global warming bill and other matters.