Stevens leaves door open on pardon after saying he would not seek one

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), convicted on seven corruption charges, reopened the possibility Tuesday of seeking a presidential pardon after indicating just hours earlier that he would not.

The longest-serving Republican senator, who was found to have concealed gifts and home renovations given to him by an oil lobbyist, initially had one word for reporters when asked if he would seek a pardon from President Bush.

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“No,” Stevens said.

Later in the day, however, his office said the matter had not been decided. Stevens is not backtracking on the issue, a spokesman said. There are still pending motions in the appeal scheduled for February, and when he said “No” he meant “No comment,” the spokesman added.

“He was ‘no-comment’-ing because there are still motions pending before the court,” a spokesman said. “He couldn’t comment on matters such as a pardon.”

Stevens’s comments were made after a meeting of the Senate GOP conference, which held off Tuesday on a vote to expel Stevens from the party. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had been pushing for a motion to kick Stevens out of the party, but withdrew it minutes after the start of the morning meeting.

DeMint said he agreed with the prevailing sentiment that the motion was unnecessary since Stevens is not likely to win his reelection race. The senator is down by more than 1,000 votes to Anchorage Mayor Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE as the final ballots are being counted.

“It looks like it has been decided by the Alaska voters,” DeMint said.

Trouble popped up elsewhere for Stevens. Reps. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.) announced they have requested a probe of some $240 million in earmarks Stevens received this year. In a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations committee chairmen, Flake and Campbell said they want Stevens’s earmarks for fiscal 2008 scrutinized before they are granted.

“I would hope that his conviction spurs Congress to examine these earmarks more closely before they are awarded,” the two congressman said in a joint statement.