Sen. Mike Crapo said Friday that he began drinking alcohol for the first time in his life in the past year as a way to deal with on-the-job stress. Crapo said he was drinking once or twice a week, always alone in his apartment in Washington, D.C.
When he drove early on the morning of Dec. 23 after having “two to three” vodka tonics, Crapo said it was the first time he’d driven after drinking.
Crapo, R-Idaho, added that he plans to seek reelection to a fourth term in 2016, hopes to earn back the trust of constituents and that his marriage is strong. The 20-year congressional veteran said his family and staff were unaware that he’d taken up drinking.
“Everybody back here is stressed and what I did was a very poor choice on how to deal with that stress,” Crapo told reporters in a conference call from Washington.
"I am swearing off alcohol and I am not going to continue to drink alcohol," he said.
Crapo spoke after his guilty plea for misdemeanor DUI and sentencing Friday morning in Virginia. Crapo's drivers license is suspended for one year, he was ordered to pay a $250 fine and attend alcohol awareness classes for 10 weeks.
To constituents, Crapo said, “Certainly I have to believe it will cause them to be disappointed in my conduct. I don’t blame them. I am disappointed in my conduct. I am embarrassed and I am apologetic. I want to be sure they understand that I accept full responsibility for what I’ve done. I am sorry and I will work to regain the trust that I’ve lost.”
Asked to describe the events that led to his arrest in Alexandria, Va., after running a red light, Crapo said, “I was drinking alone at my home and I got into my car alone. I never got out of my car and I was not going to meet anybody. It was simply a drive of frustration. I couldn’t get to sleep and I made the very poor choice that I would go out and go for a drive.”
Crapo said he didn’t know he was impaired when he got in his car, but turned around after realizing he shouldn’t be driving. “I turned back and that’s when the police officer pulled me over.”
The drive lasted 30 or 40 minutes, he said, and covered “a number of miles.”
"I didn't really feel impaired," he said. "It was when I had been driving a little bit I realized I was getting impaired. And that's when I tried to turn around and return."
Crapo said he couldn’t pinpoint the date he began drinking, but said, “It was within the past year, less than a year.”
He bought alcohol “at the local grocery store or a liquor store nearby.”
Contrary to an earlier report, Crapo said he was not drinking shots of vodka. “I did mix the vodka with tonic water. I was not drinking straight vodka.”
Crapo said his being alone and away from his family shortly before Christmas contributed to his decision to drink that night. Crapo was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 23. The Senate adjourned Thursday for the Christmas break.
He said he had scheduled flights Friday night and Sunday morning, but work kept him late Friday and he couldn’t make it to his Idaho Falls home until Sunday. Crapo’s wife, Susan, didn’t move to Washington after Crapo’s first election in 1992, remaining in Idaho Falls to raise the couple's five children.
“So I had a Friday night flight and a Sunday morning flight and I just miscalculated. That’s probably one of the other reasons I was discouraged about being alone in my apartment that night. Because the work Friday night pushed past that flight and then I had to wait until the Sunday morning flight that I had scheduled.”
Crapo said he has apologized to his family and has their support and encouragement.
“I have a strong marriage and my wife and I love each other,” Crapo said. “That’s the extent of what I want to say there.”
He says he plans to run again, which, assuming he is reelected, would extend his congressional career to 30 years, longer than any Idahoan excepting Sen. William Borah.
“That’s four years off, but I fully intend to run again, as long as there are no family or health concerns. And I hope to continue to make a contribution in the United States Senate.”
Crapo is a cancer survivor. His brother, Terry, who served before him in the Idaho Legislature, died of cancer.
Crapo said the driving ban in Virginia also applies in Idaho and Washington, D.C., which have reciprocity agreements.
"I intend not to drive anywhere, period," he said. "I am frankly going to just have to make arrangements to walk to work or to take cabs or to find other ways to get to the places I need to get to."
Crapo said he believes he would have stopped drinking even had he not been arrested for DUI.
"I believe that I would have ended it. I was already thinking in my own mind that this had to end. I don't know how to give you a timetable answer to that, but I believe in my heart that I had already recognized that I was on a bad path and that I needed to find a different path to follow."
Before he took questions, Crapo read the following statement, which he said was identical to the statement he gave outside the Alexandria Courthouse Friday morning:
I have recently made personal choices that are at odds with who I am, who Idahoans rightly believe me to be and who I strive to be. I believe public officials should be held to higher standards, since I have been entrusted by Idahoans to make choices and votes on their behalf. I offer my apologies, ask for your forgiveness for my recent failings and I make a firm commitment that I will strive to regain the trust that I have lost.
As a public servant, I owe Idahoans a full and accurate explanation of my failings. I appreciate the opportunity that I have had in the last few days to privately explain and apologize to my family. I love them deeply and appreciate their encouragement and support in helping me face this situation.
In recent months, and for less than a year, I have on occasion had alcoholic drinks in my apartment in Washington, DC. It was a poor choice to use alcohol to relieve stress—and one at odds with my personally-held religious beliefs. However, on the night of Saturday, December 22nd, I made another even worse decision to go for a drive to get out of my apartment and try to wind down. I left my apartment, driving out past the monuments. I was alone during this drive and never left my vehicle. After driving around for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, I realized what a mistake it had been for me to drive and decided to return to my apartment. I approached a multi-street intersection and mistakenly turned against a red light. It was at that time that the police pulled me over. As has been publicly reported, I cooperated fully with the officer. I failed the field sobriety tests. As you know, I pled guilty and will follow through on the punishment imposed by the court.
As a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is well-known for its standards against consumption of alcohol, I have endeavored for the majority of my life to be an upstanding representative of my faith. My mistake in using alcohol in recent months has therefore brought additional embarrassment and shame to me, my family and other church members who care about me. I will carry through on the appropriate measures for repentance, and I ask all of you for your forgiveness.
I sincerely regret the choice I made for many reasons, especially because tragic consequences can result from drinking and driving. I am truly, truly grateful that no one was injured and, as has been suggested, I will find an opportunity to help further the message: “don’t drink and drive”.
In summary, I am profoundly sorry for the pain and embarrassment that I have brought to my family, to Idahoans, to my church, to my colleagues in the U.S. Senate and my staff, to anyone who has placed their trust in me. I am also deeply appreciative of those who have reached out to me over the last few days with messages of encouragement, support and forgiveness. These words mean more to me and my family than they can ever know. I will work hard to regain the trust of my family and Idahoans.