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Weiner says his wife wants him to stay in Congress, source says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: New poll shows majority in Weiner's district want him to stay on
  • Weiner told a colleague he does not intend to resign, a source tells CNN
  • Sen. Leahy is the most senior Democrat to date to call for Weiner to leave
  • An explicit photo claimed to be of Weiner is posted online

Washington (CNN) -- Rep. Anthony Weiner has said he has no plans to resign over a "sexting" scandal, and that his wife wants him to stay in Congress, a Democratic source told CNN Thursday.

Weiner made the remarks to a House Democratic colleague from New York on Wednesday afternoon, rejecting growing calls from fellow legislators -- including key Democrats -- for him to step down, said the source, who was familiar with the conversation.

Weiner also cited polling data showing a majority of New York City voters want him to remain in office, the source said, describing Weiner as "dug in."

The source spoke to CNN on the condition that the name of the Democratic New York lawmaker to whom Weiner spoke would not be made public, because it was a private conversation.

After more than a week of bad news that began over Memorial Day weekend with the first reports of his sexual-tinged online communications with several women, Weiner got some good news Thursday: new polling information showed 56% percent of constituents in his home disrict want him to stay on.

However, Democratic colleagues on Thursday continued to call for him to bow out, including veteran Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and Utah Rep. Jim Matheson.

Leahy, who ranks second in Senate seniority, "supports Minority Leader (Nancy) Pelosi's request for a House investigation, and he believes that a decision by Congressman Weiner to voluntarily leave office would be in the best interests of his constituents and the House," Leahy spokesman David Carle said.

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He and Matheson joined Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Reps. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, Michael Michaud of Maine, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Larry Kissell of North Carolina and Joe Donnelly of Indiana in calling for Weiner's resignation.

"Enough is enough," Donnelly said in a written statement. "It's time for Congressman Weiner to resign. His actions have disgraced the Congress. Everyone should be focused on jobs and the economy, and his refusal to do the right thing is a distraction."

In addition, Donnelly and some other Democrats have announced that previous campaign contributions they received from Weiner would be donated to charity.

Another top Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, stopped short of calling for Weiner's resignation but offered a barb attributed to former President Woodrow Wilson in saying, "Don't murder someone who is already committing suicide."

"I think he has some serious problems that will not go away soon," Durbin added. The actual quote attributed to Wilson, a Democratic President who served from 1913 to 1921, is: "Never attempt to murder a man who is committing suicide."

A Democratic legislator familiar with discussions on the situation told CNN that Weiner's colleagues are telling him he should resign "to preserve his own dignity."

The legislator, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name in order to discuss private conversations, said the public call by Schwartz was part of a stepped-up effort to force Weiner out. According to the source, the effort includes private and public calls explicitly telling him it's time for him to leave Congress.

"There is increased resentment by his colleagues that far from having a press conference where he was going to tell the truth and roll with the flames, the flames are just getting worse and he's dragging us through it," the source said. "We really thought by now, after the press conference, we would be able to talk about the Republicans' Social Security privatization bill and instead we keep talking about Anthony Weiner. And people are getting angrier and more resentful."

A new explicit photograph now published on the Internet, allegedly of Weiner's naked genitals, is the latest example of how the issue is not going away, the Democratic legislator said, adding it was unclear if Weiner would listen.

Meanwhile, it is highly likely Weiner's district will be eliminated as part of next year's redistricting process, multiple New York Democratic sources told CNN. New York will lose two of its 29 U.S. House seats by 2012 in line with recent U.S. Census results.

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Weiner, who is married, admitted earlier this week that he engaged in sexually tinged communications with multiple women and lied about it. Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, are expecting their first child, CNN has learned.

Pelosi, D-California, who called Monday for an ethics investigation, released a letter Tuesday detailing her formal request for the inquiry. She has not spoken on or released further statements on what she thinks Weiner should do.

Weiner, who has said he would welcome an ethics probe, publicly apologized Monday for sending flirtatious messages and images on Facebook and Twitter to six women over the past three years and then denying it for a week.

Over the past three days, he has been reaching out to a number of colleagues and supporters, according to one source. Among other things, Weiner called former President Bill Clinton -- who officiated at his wedding ceremony -- to personally express regret for his actions.

According to a Democratic congressman who got one of the calls, Weiner was "very contrite" and said he "let everyone down." The legislator, speaking on condition of not being named because it was a private conversation, said Weiner was so choked up he could "barely get the words out," and told him that he was going to "get some help."

Wednesday's publication online of the explicit photo that a conservative blogger claims shows Weiner's genitals was the latest twist in the scandal. Andrew Breitbart, whose biggovernment.com website broke the story of Weiner's sexting, said the photo came from a woman who told him Weiner sent it to her.

Weiner acknowledged Monday that such an X-rated photo of him could exist.

Also Wednesday, one of the women with whom Weiner communicated online said the congressman initiated sexual exchanges.

"I would want to talk politics. But he would turn it creepy," Lisa Weiss, a 40-year-old blackjack dealer from Las Vegas, told CBS' "Inside Edition." Weiss said she believes Weiner has "a weird fetish," but that "it doesn't make him a bad politician ... or a bad congressman. It makes him a bad husband."

Asked what she'd say to Weiner's wife, Weiss said: "I want to apologize. I should not have been flirting with her husband."

An ethics investigation would examine if Weiner violated House rules or brought the chamber into disrepute.

The code of conduct for members of Congress calls for them to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House." However, ethics experts say legislators are rarely, if ever, disciplined for violating that rule alone.

Using government technology such as telephones and computers for his sexting could be another story.

Weiner said Monday he used his personal BlackBerry and home computer, but added: "I don't have the knowledge of every last communication, but I don't believe that I used any government resources."

Even if he did, that doesn't automatically subject him to House discipline, said Stan Brand, a former House general counsel who has represented legislators before the ethics panel.

Members of Congress sometimes use official resources for nongovernment activities, Brand noted, adding that "the House has never taken a position or disciplined someone for that use."

CNN's Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen, Peter Hamby, Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Mary Snow, Meghan Rafferty, Josh Levs, Ted Barrett and Kate Bolduan contributed to this report.

 
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