By Benjy Sarlin
TPM has confirmed that after weeks of increasingly embarrassing revelations and building pressure from within his own party, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) will on Thursday resign his seat in Congress. He told Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of his decision on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday morning, TPM witnessed staffers leaving his Capitol Hill office, turning out the lights with boxes of belongings in hand.
Weiner will hold a press conference in New York at 2 PM, according to multiple reports. Pelosi told reporters on Thursday morning that she would not have any comment until after the New York lawmaker speaks.
The scandal began with a lewd photo sent from Weiner’s twitter feed last month to a college student in Seattle, which he quickly deleted. After a week of flimsy claims about a phony cyberattack, Weiner admitted in a teary press conference that he was responsible for the photo. “The picture was of me and I sent it,” he confessed. However, he said he would not resign, instead hoping he could convince constituents the incident was merely a “personal failing” that had broken no laws and did not affect his work.
By then the scandal had taken on a life of its own, however, as more and more embarrassing revelations came to light. Another crop of alleged photos of the Congressman surfaced online as two of his online flings came forward to the press, including an X-rated picture that leaked on Wednesday after Andrew Breitbart shared it with two radio hosts in their studio. Tabloid Radaronline.com published dozens of pages of raunchy messages that they claimed were sent between Weiner and a middle-aged woman in Nevada. TMZ reported that Weiner had coached a professional stripper in Nashville, Ginger Lee, to lie about their online exchanges, raising new legal and ethical questions.
Republicans, mostly quiet in the lead-up to his confession, pounced on the news. The NRCC challenged Democrats to return donations from Weiner while the NRSC demanded that Weiner’s political mentor, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), answer for his protege’s actions. Democrats showed no interest in defending him from their attacks. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told TPM that his hypothetical advice to Weiner would be to “call somebody else.”
The bottom dropped out a week ago on Wednesday as the first round of Democratic lawmakers publicly demanded his resignation. Among the earliest calls was from Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), who chairs the House Democrats’ 2012 campaign efforts, a signal to rank and file members that Weiner was unprotected.
“Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress,” Schwartz told Politico. “In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign.”
Others rapidly followed suit, including Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-OH) and Nikki Tsongas (D-MA) in the House and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate.
Over the weekend, party leadership joined in calling for his resignation, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz telling Weiner it was time to go. Weiner, for his part announced he was seeking a temporary leave of absence so that he could enter rehab.
Back in New York, where Weiner had long harbored ambitions of becoming mayor, support for the Congressman remained steady in his congressional district, but citywide polls showed voters less sure. While early polls showed conflicting feelings among locals about the scandal, reports suggested that state Democrats might eliminate his seat entirely in the next round of redistricting or run a credible primary challenger, such as former Councilman Eric Gioia.
With little remaining support at home or in Washington and no sign of the media frenzy surrounding his personal life abating, Weiner was increasingly left with few options.