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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pressure increases for Weiner to resign

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, was first elected to Congress in 1998 and has won seven straight elections.Washington  Fellow Democrats mounted increasing pressure Wednesday for Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign, a day after party leaders turned their backs on the liberal congressman embroiled in a "sexting" scandal.
Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Reps. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, Michael Michaud of Maine, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts joined a growing chorus of Democratic voices that have called for Weiner, D-New York, to step down over sexually tinged online communications with several women that he then lied about.
A Democratic legislator familiar with discussions with and about Weiner told CNN that Weiner's colleagues are telling him he should resign "to preserve his own dignity."
The congressman, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name in order to discuss private conversations, said the public call by Schwartz was part of a stepped-up effort to force Weiner out. According to the source, the effort includes private and public calls explicitly telling him it's time to leave Congress.
"There is increased resentment by his colleagues that far from having a press conference where he was going to tell the truth and roll with the flames, the flames are just getting worse and he's dragging us through it," the source said. "We really thought by now, after the press conference, we would be able to talk about the Republicans' Social Security privatization bill and instead we keep talking about Anthony Weiner. And people are getting angrier and more resentful."
A new explicit photograph now published on the Internet, allegedly of Weiner's naked genitals, is the latest example of how the issue was not going away, the Democratic legislator said, adding it was unclear if Weiner would listen.
"I think he is truly conflicted and the people around him are truly conflicted," the source said. "Nobody knows what is going to work."
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More public calls for Weiner's resignation are expected, the source added.
Also Wednesday, multiple New York Democratic sources told CNN it is highly likely Weiner's district will be eliminated as part of next year's redistricting process.
Weiner, who is married, admitted earlier this week that he engaged in sexually tinged communications with multiple women and lied about it.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, are expecting their first child. Philippe Reines, a colleague and friend of Abedin, responded "no comment" when asked about the pregnancy report.
Weiner's admission Monday launched calls from Republicans and then an increasing number of Democrats for him to step aside.
"It would be fine with me," Pryor said Wednesday. "I think at this point it would probably be a good thing if he would go ahead and resign."
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said Tuesday that Weiner's attempted cover-up of the scandal makes him unfit for office.
"Lying is unforgivable," said Kaine, now a U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia. "Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable and he should resign."
While other Democrats haven't explicitly called on Weiner to step down, they have done little to demonstrate any support for him.
"Rep. Weiner has some problems," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, told reporters Wednesday.
"I wish there was some way I could defend him, but I can't," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday. Asked what he would say if Weiner sought advice, Reid smiled and responded: "I'd tell him to call someone else."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who called for an ethics investigation Monday, released a letter Tuesday detailing her formal request for the inquiry.
Pelosi's letter "certainly adds pressure for him to go," said a senior Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of not being identified.
Weiner, who has said he would welcome an ethics investigation, publicly apologized Monday for sending flirtatious messages and images on Facebook and Twitter to six women over the past three years and then denying it for a week.
Over the past three days, he has been reaching out to a number of colleagues and supporters, according to one source. Among other things, Weiner called former President Bill Clinton, who officiated at his wedding ceremony, to personally express regret for his actions.
Wednesday's publication online of the explicit photo that a conservative blogger claims shows Weiner's genitals was the latest twist in the scandal. Andrew Breitbart, whose website broke the story of Weiner's sexting, said the photo came from a woman who told him Weiner sent it to her.
Weiner acknowledged Monday that such an X-rated photo of him could exist.
Some fellow House Democrats have announced they were donating campaign contributions from Weiner to charity.
An ethics investigation would examine if Weiner violated House rules or brought the chamber into disrepute.
The code of conduct for members of Congress calls for them to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House." However, ethics experts say legislators are rarely, if ever, disciplined for violating that rule alone.
Using government technology such as telephones and computers for his sexting could be another story.
Weiner said Monday he used his personal BlackBerry and home computer, but added: "I don't have the knowledge of every last communication, but I don't believe that I used any government resources."
Even if he did, that doesn't automatically subject him to House discipline, said Stan Brand, a former House general counsel who has represented legislators before the ethics panel.
Members of Congress sometimes use official resources for nongovernment activities, Brand noted, adding that "the House has never taken a position or disciplined someone for that use."
In Weiner's district -- which straddles Brooklyn and Queens -- voters were divided over what the congressman should do. Some constituents said he should "never resign," while others called for his immediate ouster.
Weiner was first elected to Congress in 1998 and has won seven straight elections.
Whether or not Weiner retains the support of most of his constituents, many analysts believe he has almost certainly lost his spot as a front-runner in New York's 2013 mayoral election.
In addition, multiple New York Democratic sources told CNN on Wednesday they believe it is highly likely Weiner will ultimately lose his congressional district as part of a redistricting deal. New York will lose two of its 29 U.S. House seats by 2012 due to recent U.S. Census results.
Before news broke of the Weiner scandal, most New York state government observers believed one Republican seat upstate would be lost along with one Democratic seat downstate. The fact that Weiner is now tarnished makes it extremely likely his seat will be the one that Democrats sacrifice, the sources said.
Two of the sources -- both Democratic strategists in New York -- said the impending redistricting is one reason New York Democrats aren't rushing to call on Weiner to resign. Many believe it is better for them if he stays, because it makes it more likely that his district will be eliminated instead of theirs, the sources noted.

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