NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The White House is finally weighing in on the Weiner-gate scandal.
And after more raunchy photos surfaced over the weekend, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer has learned members of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s own party may be trying to dig up even more dirt. This coming on the same day the House approved without objection a two-week leave of absence for the six-term New York Democrat. His request was approved by unanimous consent at the close of legislative business on Monday night.
The big question for Weiner is this: has his stubborn refusal to resign driven Democrats to use their opposition research teams to try to find more embarrassing information in an effort to force him off the political stage.
Kramer asked House Homeland Security chairman Peter King if that is a possibility.
“Yeah, that’s to be expected. Right now he is a tremendous hindrance and obstacle to the Democratic Party. Whether people have new information or not I think you’re going to see all the powerful forces in the Democratic Party using whatever leverage they have or think they have to convince Anthony Weiner to leave in effect to force him to leave,” Rep. King said.
King made his remarks as Congress returned to session Monday after publication of yet another set of embarrassing pictures of Rep. Weiner — these steamier and sweatier, taken in the House members’ gym. They show Weiner with his camera phone in one hand, and in his other, well, it’s obvious.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, invited to Weiner’s wedding to Huma Abedin last July, said he broke House ethics rules.
“It certainly appears as if he did,” Rep. Chaffetz said. “He admitted that he did this and not just once, not just twice, not just three times. I liken it to a hit-and-run accident. The accidents were bad enough, but the fact that you ran and lied about it it’s intolerable.”
President Barack Obama is so frustrated by Weiner’s refusal to quit the White House he said if he were in Congressman Weiner’s position, he’d resign. The president said Monday that what Weiner did in exchanging sexual messages over the Internet with several women was “highly inappropriate” and that Weiner had embarrassed himself, his wife and his family.
The president didn’t explicitly call for Weiner to resign but said that when a politician gets to the point where he can’t serve as effectively as needed, in his words, “then you should probably step back.”
Earlier in the day the White House had the following to say:
“The president feels, we feel at the White House, this is a distraction. As Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate, dishonesty was inappropriate,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
And after Weiner ignored calls for his resignation from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the president’s hand-picked party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, pundits now believe the president will try to get former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — Weiner’s wife’s boss — to apply pressure.
“Bet that the Obamas and the Clintons have been talking. They both have an agenda. One is to protect Huma the other is to protect the Democratic Party and the president’s re-election,” political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.
“You can bet the White House is trying to figure out how to get to the Clintons to say to Huma, to say to Weiner it’s time to go. President Obama doesn’t need this; the Democratic Party doesn’t need this.”
Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee has started a preliminary probe of the congressman, but Weiner’s friends told Kramer he is waiting for his wife to return from a trip with Secretary of State Clinton before he makes any further decisions. Clinton announced Monday she is cutting short her three-nation African trip due to a volcanic eruption that has created an ash cloud over parts of east Africa. But there’s no question she’s coming home with Congressman Weiner’s wife to face a cloud of a different sort.
Friends of Abedin’s told Kramer they have already counseled Weiner to resign. Now the congressman has two weeks, presumably away from Washington, to further ponder his future.
“The type of pictures they appear to be, the fact that they were taken in the House gym against the whole backdrop of contacting young women of tweeting pictures of himself around. To me that clearly does violate the ethics rules,” Rep. King said.
Weiner’s fellow congressmen took to the Sunday talk shows, stepping up their calls for Weiner to step down.
“I hope he reflects upon whether or not he can proceed. It seems to be extraordinarily difficult that he can proceed in an effective way and continue to represent his constituents in an effective way given the circumstances of this bizarre behavior,” said Steny Hoyer.
Weiner has already admitted carrying on inappropriate online relationships with six women, which included sending lewd pictures over the internet.
Over the weekend, word came out that Weiner had also tweeted with a 17-year-old Delaware girl. Police in New Castle, Del., questioned a 17-year-old high school student Friday regarding her online communications with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), a police official said Friday night.
The New Castle County police “were made aware of an alleged contact between Congressman Anthony Weiner and an area teen,” department spokeswoman Officer Tracey Duffy told the Associated Press. “The teen has been interviewed and disclosed no information regarding any criminal activity.”
Several police officers visited the teenager’s home Friday afternoon and asked to speak with her mother, according to confirmed reports. About half an hour later, the officers left.
The latest pictures raise more ethical questions, since they’re considered not simply distasteful but possibly illegal since Weiner used the gym at the Rayburn House Office Building as a background for his steamy shots.
“We have important work to do and this is a difficult distraction,” Rep. Paul Ryan said.
On Saturday, the seven-term congressman’s office said Weiner left his apartment in Forest Hills to seek professional treatment. Wasserman Schultz said she spoke with Weiner before he left.
“He’s incredibly apologetic, devastated that this is conduct he’s been engaged in,” she said.
However, even she was calling on him to resign.
Can you think of a way for Congressman Weiner to salvage his political career? Sound off in our comments section below…
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