WASHINGTON – Bowing to an avalanche of pressure, Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., announced Tuesday he would resign from Congress, driven from office four days after reports that he had an unwanted sexual encounter with an 18-year-old woman described by two former allies as "both jarring and exceptionally serious."
Wu made the announcement midday EDT, calling it "the only correct decision" and in the best interest of his family.
"The time has come to hand on the privilege of high office. I cannot care for my family the way I wish while serving in Congress and fighting these very serious allegations," Wu said in a four-paragraph denouement of his public career. He will leave short of finishing his seventh term.
"The wellbeing of my children must come before anything else. With great sadness, I therefore intend to resign effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis. This is the right decision for my family, the institution of the House, and my colleagues," the statement said.
Wu's precise last day is unknown; he will remain in Congress until the debate over the debt ceiling is resolved. That means his last day could come this week or lapse for another week or two at the most.
But while Wu characterized his decision as one option among several, Democratic leaders in Washington and Oregon effectively maneuvered Wu into an ever-shrinking box with only one way out – immediate resignation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday formally asked the Ethics Committee to investigate allegations that Wu had sex with the young woman in late November in Orange County, Calif. Wu's staff became aware of the incident in May when the young woman left a distraught message on the main phone line of Wu's Portland office claiming that Wu forced himself on her.
On Tuesday, Oregon's two Democratic senators -- Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley -- publicly called on Wu to step down immediately. A statement from the senators said that Wu has lost his ability to serve effectively in Congress and they described the November incident as "both jarring and exceptionally serious."
Wu released his own announcement moments after the statement from Wyden and Merkley was released.
It came shortly before the Democratic Party of Oregon was to release its own statement calling for his resignation.
It was a remarkable fall even for Wu, who has been dogged for months by public reports of erratic behavior, heavy losses of senior staff and increasing professional isolation in Washington and his Oregon district, which stretches from Portland west to the Pacific Coast.
Democrats, however, were breathing a sigh of relief.
"The allegations before Congressman Wu are deeply disturbing and clearly hindered his ability to be an effective representative for the 1st District. He has made the right choice in resigning," Wyden and Merkley said in a second statement delivered after Wu announced his resignation.
"We hope the governor will move quickly in calling for a special election," they said.
Until the last week, Wu has been able to absorb and deflect the growing accusations and doubts.
That history began unraveling Friday evening when The Oregonian reported that Wu had been accused of an unwanted sexual encounter with the 18-year-old daughter of a childhood friend. The incident occurred in Orange County last year. The woman is the daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor. She apparently did not contact police at the time. One person who heard the voice mail described the woman as upset, breathing heavily and distraught. In the voice mail, the young woman accused Wu of aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior, according to sources with direct knowledge of the message and its contents.
Tuesday's decision was also a reversal for Wu. On Saturday, he suggested though an associate that he intended to finish his term and retire.
The news did not sit well with Democratic leaders, who had been pressing Wu to step down after concluding he can no longer be effective and that the continued presence of a lawmaker accused of sexual impropriety could damage the party's chances going into the 2012 elections. Pelosi immediately called for an ethics investigation and in the days that followed senior Democratic leaders along with Wu's dwindling friends in Congress urged him to reconsider. One of the last conversations came Monday when Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., had a private, 40-minute conversation with Wu about his future.
Tags: David Wu, Oregon Democrat Rep, Sexual Encounters, Resigns, Congress hard at Work, Freak
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States (load item map)
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