WASHINGTON -- Embattled Sen. Bob Packwood was on the verge of resigning from the Senate on Friday but changed his mind after he received a Justice Department subpoena for his personal diaries, the Senate's top two Republican leaders said yesterday.
The Oregon Republican, accused of making unwanted sexual advances and already fighting a Senate subpoena for his private memoirs, decided to remain in the Senate to have a better forum to defend himself, according to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, and Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming.
"He's going through a terrible personal turmoil," Mr. Simpson said of Mr. Packwood on CBS' "Face the Nation." "He was ready to resign. He wanted out -- the pain of it, the hounding of it."
Simpson said he suspected that the staff of the Senate ethics committee alerted the Justice Department that Mr. Packwood intended to resign -- and thus halt the Senate inquiry -- and that Mr. Packwood was served with a Justice Department subpoena a short time later.
After the Justice Department subpoena was issued, any attempt to destroy the diaries would have left Mr. Packwood open to charges of obstructing justice, even if he had left the Senate.
"Now, he [Packwood] is not going to resign, and that's good," Mr. Simpson added. "We need to buoy him up and sustain him and press him to our bosom."
Mr. Dole gave a similar account on NBC's "Meet the Press" of Mr. Packwood's thinking last week after a long series of meetings with fellow Republicans.
In considering resignation, Mr. Packwood felt "there might be a window" for him to keep his diaries private if the ethics case were dismissed and federal prosecutors decided not to pursue charges that he had asked a lobbyist to help his former wife get a job.
"I think he was close to resignation, but about that time, the Justice Department came forth with a subpoena, and he decided then not to resign," Mr. Dole said.
The Senate is expected to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today to request enforcement of its subpoena for Mr. Packwood's diaries from Jan. 1, 1989, to the present.
Mr. Dole said Mr. Packwood told him of his decision on the Senate floor on Friday afternoon.
"I think he's entitled to defend himself," Mr. Dole said. "He's entitled to the same rights as anyone in America. He's only been charged with certain things -- there's been no proof, no evidence."