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Weiner takes leave of absence; Obama suggests he should resign

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Source: Weiner debating resignation
  • NEW: Rep. Anthony Weiner's requested two-week leave is granted without objection
  • Obama tells NBC that if he were in Weiner's position, he'd resign
  • Weiner wants to talk with his wife before deciding
  • The White House speaks for the first time on the Weiner scandal

(CNN) -- Rep. Anthony Weiner took a two-week leave of absence from the U.S. House on Monday to consider calls by Democratic leaders -- and a strong hint from President Barack Obama -- that he should resign over a "sexting" scandal and his subsequent lies about it.

The House Clerk read Weiner's request for the two-week leave of absence at 7:25 p.m. Monday. The House agreed to the request without any objection.

Earlier, both the White House and Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Weiner with the administration's first public comment on the scandal that emerged in late May.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Obama believes Weiner was wrong to send a lewd picture of himself over Twitter and then lie about it, and that the continuing scandal surrounding the New York Democrat is a distraction from important national business,

Obama himself later strongly suggested Weiner should step down, telling NBC in an interview that if he were in the congressman's position, he'd resign.

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"Obviously, what he did was highly inappropriate," Obama said in the interview, scheduled for broadcast Tuesday. He added, "Ultimately, there's gonna be a decision for him and his constituents. I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign."

Obama went on to explain his thinking, saying that "when you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can't serve as effectively as you need to at the time when people are worrying about jobs and their mortgages and paying the bills, then you should probably step back."

Weiner has been in the spotlight since a lewd photograph of him became public after it was sent to a woman over the Twitter social networking service.

After initially claiming that his account had been hacked, Weiner admitted that he sent the picture and had engaged in several inappropriate relationships with women he had met online.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called for an ethics committee investigation to determine whether Weiner misused government resources while conducting the online relationships. She and a number of prominent Democrats have since called for him to resign.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, went a step further Monday, saying Democrats should force Weiner to step down.

"I think he should resign. I think his leaders should do everything they can to bring him to that point if he's not already," Cantor said. "I'm hoping that (House Democrats) will begin to move, if he does not resign, towards things like perhaps stripping him of his committees and others. I don't think we have time for this."

When asked whether Democrats are considering action such as taking away Weiner's assignment on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, "As I said yesterday, he's taking a leave. He's going to think about what he's going to do, and we'll wait to see what he decides."

Weiner has said he does not plan to step aside. Instead, he has decided to seek treatment "to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person," his spokeswoman said Saturday.

While he is seeking treatment at an undisclosed location, he will ask for a "short leave of absence" from Congress, Risa Heller said in a statement.

A Democratic source who spoke to Weiner in recent days says the congressman made clear that he was still "on the fence" about whether to step down.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, said Monday that Weiner wanted to delay a decision until his wife, Huma Abedin, returns Wednesday from a trip to Africa with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"He's awaiting the arrival of his wife, having a conversation with his wife," Israel said. "I hope he makes the judgment that he should resign."

The Democratic source said Weiner specifically said in their phone conversation that he needs to "look her in the eye" and discuss this before he makes any decision because he has done enough to hurt her.

The same Democratic source said Weiner was emotionally distraught on the phone in this and other conversations, and in a state of "despair." Other Democratic sources who talked to him late last week described him the same way. Another who spoke to him Saturday called Weiner's disposition "turbulent."

Going into their first leadership meeting in over a week, House Democratic leaders were split Monday on whether to keep pushing Weiner to step down.

Pelosi, Israel -- chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, all reiterated that Weiner should resign. However, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, said "these decisions are ultimately left to his constituents."

Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-California, when pressed on whether he agreed with Pelosi's call for Weiner to resign, said: "I think she was right to call for an ethics investigation."

CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Kate Bolduan, Rachel Streitfeld and Dana Bash contributed to this report.