Embattled Rep. Weiner Plans To Resign

Originally published on June 16, 2011 1:10 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Representative Anthony Weiner has told some fellow House Democrats that he will resign from Congress this afternoon. Weiner was a rising Democratic star, and then came revelations about his lewd online emails and tweets to young women. Washington and people who focus on Washington have hardly been able to speak about anything else ever since.

NPR's David Welna is covering the story on Capitol Hill.

David, good morning.

DAVID WELNA: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why would Weiner resign now, after refusing before?

WELNA: Well, see, we don't know for sure, since he's not expected to publicly announce his resignation until a few hours from now at a news conference in Sheepshead Bay, which is part of his New York City district. But there are a few factors that point to why today. One is that his wife Huma -who's a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - had been out of the country until yesterday. And Weiner had told colleagues that he would make no decision about his future until he'd met with her face to face.

Another is that House Democrats were planning to meet today to discuss stripping Weiner of a key committee assignment if he remained. But also, he's come under intense public pressure from senior Democratic colleagues since this story has been a huge distraction from things the Democrats would rather be talking about. Everyone from President Obama - who said this week that if he were Weiner, he'd resign - to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who last Saturday, called for Weiner's resignation publically. That call was promptly followed by Weiner saying he was taking a leave of absence from the House to undergo rehabilitation at an undisclosed location.

Prevailing in getting him to quit became a big test of Pelosi's clout, which has been in question since she gave up the gavel as speaker of the House in January, but she did prevail. And according to sources, Weiner called her last night at the White House congressional picnic and said that he was planning to resign.

INSKEEP: There don't seem to have been an awful lot of Democrats who have jumped up to defend Anthony Weiner, or even to shield him in any particular way in the three weeks since this all began.

WELNA: Not a lot. There are some New York colleagues who have scolded Weiner, but they have not called for his resignation. But pretty much everyone else up here who's a Democrat would like to have seen him go, and said so publically.

INSKEEP: So remind us how we got here.

WELNA: Well, three weeks ago tonight, to be exact, was when Andrew Breitbart, who has a conservative blog, posted a photo of a male shown from waist-down in bulging underwear, which Breitbart said had been sent by Weiner to a 21-year-old woman who's a college student outside Seattle. And that's where the whole scandal got started.

INSKEEP: And, of course, he didn't admit to this right away. What was his famous statement about the one photo? I cannot conclusively say it is not me. There was some kind of double negative going on there. But he didn't really own up to what had happened here.

WELNA: No. His staff initially said that his Twitter account had been hacked, and then Weiner himself told reporters here at the Capitol a few days later that it was a prank, and insisted that he had not sent the photo - repeatedly insisted that. But, you know, a lot of questions were raised when he would not rule out that that was actually himself in the photo.

And then 10 days after the story broke, Weiner called a news conference in midtown Manhattan and tearfully admitted that it was, in fact, he who had sent the photo, and that it was of him, and that he'd also sent what he called inappropriate messages to at least half a dozen other women, both before and after his marriage a year ago. And since then, we've also learned that his wife, Huma, is expecting their first child.

INSKEEP: So, just repeating the news that David Welna has confirmed for us, that this afternoon - I think you said 2 o'clock, David - Anthony Weiner is going to be holding a press conference and announcing his resignation. Does this mean his career is over?

WELNA: Well, you know, it's hard telling. We've seen a lot of second acts in American politics. But, you know, I think he may well have mortally wounded his aspirations of someday being mayor of New York City, which is what he really wanted to do. And he's also got to worry about having any other kind of career, because he's really only worked as an elected official, and he has no law degree or business degree. And right now, he's not the kind of guy employers might be dashing to hire. It's quite a fall from being one of the Democratic Party's brightest stars.

INSKEEP: David, thanks very much.

WELNA: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's congressional correspondent David Welna on Capitol Hill. And once again, the news today, we are expecting an announcement, a news conference from New York City Congressman Anthony Weiner early this afternoon, announcing that he is leaving Congress under pressure.

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