Sheesh it’s a busy day.
Rep. David Wu, an Oregon Democrat facing an ethics investigation for allegedly having an unwanted sexual encounter with a young woman, said today he will resign from Congress.
Wu, the first Chinese-American member of Congress, said he is stepping down so he can take care of his two children as he fights these “very serious allegations.”
Yesterday, Wu reportedly told his friend Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., that he did “nothing illegal” and believes he will be “vindicated.”
But Wu, who did not deny he had an encounter with the young woman, conceded he exercised poor judgment.
The Oregonian reported Friday that a young woman left a distraught message with Wu’s Portland office accusing him of what the newspaper described as “aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior.” The woman, who was 18 at the time of the incident, is the daughter of one of Wu’s longtime friends, who is also a campaign contributor.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., formally asked Monday for an ethics investigation into the allegations made against Wu, first elected in 1998 and currently in his seventh term.
Wu had initially said he would not seek re-election next year. He said today he’ll leave once Congress and President Obama resolve an impasse over raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion in borrowing authority.
“The time has come to hand on the privilege of high office,” Wu said in a statement. “I cannot care for my family the way I wish while serving in Congress and fighting these very serious allegations.”
Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and one of Wu’s closest friends, spoke with the embattled congressman yesterday and shared some of the discussion with reporters for The Oregonian and other news outlets.
“He said this was weighing heavy on his mind and he hadn’t made up his mind. He was obviously quite troubled by the whole thing and insisting that when everything comes out, ‘I’ll be vindicated,’ ” Larson said, according to the Portland newspaper. “I told him, ‘Dave, there are no good answers to this.’ ”
Even before the allegations from the young woman had surfaced, Wu had attracted unwanted attention and headlines.
The Oregonian reported in February that Wu’s staff had demanded the congressman seek psychiatric treatment because they were concerned about his sometimes erratic behavior. Wu reportedly would sometimes be loud, angry and behaved inappropriately on the campaign trail, the newspaper reported.
Among other things, Wu e-mailed a photo of himself wearing a tiger costume. The congressman appeared on ABC after The Oregonian‘s story was published, apologized for his behavior and said he was on medication and getting treatment for undisclosed mental health issues.
He is going through a divorce.
Wu’s decision to resign and the ethics investigation represent a dramatic fall for the lawmaker, who was born in Taiwan. Wu graduated from Stanford, briefly attended medical school at Harvard and earned a law degree at Yale. He clerked for a federal judge in Portland and ended up making his home there.
While in Congress, he has developed a mostly centrist voting record but stuck with the Democratic Party on education, health care, abortion and gun control, according to the Almanac of American Politics.
Wu had already drawn two Democratic primary opponents before the sex scandal broke: Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian and state Rep. Brad Witt. The 1st Congressional District, centered in Portland, is solidly Democratic and gave President Obama 61% of its vote in 2008.