Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Radel to Take Leave of Absence for Drug Treatment (Updated)

Updated 11:29 p.m. | Rep. Trey Radel won’t resign, but he will take a leave of absence.

The Florida Republican faced the media late Wednesday night after pleading guilty earlier in the day to a misdemeanor charge of possession of cocaine. Radel apologized and said he would take a leave of absence while he seeks “intensive” inpatient treatment, but he also said he wasn’t stepping down.

“I will be taking a leave of absence,” Radel told reporters against the backdrop of a white wall, flanked by an American flag to his right and a Florida state flag to his left. “During that time, I’m going to donate my salary to a charity.”

He did not say he would be donating his salary for the time that he was serving in Congress and using cocaine.

What Radel did say was that he was sorry, that there was no excuse for his actions, that he needed to regain the trust of his constituents and take responsibility for his behavior.

“I’m not going to sit here and try and make any excuses for what I’ve done. I’ve let down our country, I’ve let down our constituents, I’ve let down my family, including my wife, and even though he doesn’t know it, I’ve let down my 2-year-old son,” he said.

“I have been getting the help that I need, and I will continue to get the help that I need, and the support system that I need for years to come,” he said.

While Radel said that he has already started an intensive inpatient treatment, adding that he has struggled with his addiction problems for “years,” he did not specify how long he would be in treatment, or what that treatment would entail.

Radel seemed to indicate during his press conference that this was not a new issue, nor an infrequent one — meaning his personal, and, indeed, political problems might be deeper than previously suspected.

However, during the roughly 10-minute news conference, which was held in Cape Coral, Fla., at 10:30 p.m. EST, Radel never uttered the word cocaine.

One item repeatedly brought up was Radel’s wife, whom he called “his rock.” And Radel referenced his mother, who struggled with her own addiction issues and died on Radel’s wedding day, choking on a piece of steak during the reception.

“I want to be a better man for my family,” he said.

As Radel exited the press conference, he was asked a question — which he did not answer — about his vote to drug test food stamp recipients. Radel can expect that line of questioning to be a common refrain.

Radel pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to the possession charge in D.C. Superior Court after he was arrested on Oct. 29 for possession cocaine. Radel bought 3.5 grams of cocaine — commonly known as an eight ball — from an undercover officer outside a Dupont Circle restaurant.

GOP leadership has stood by Radel to this point, with a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner issuing a statement Tuesday evening that said, “this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

While leadership and Radel seem to believe he can politically survive the cocaine arrest incident, some Republicans have already signaled they believe he should step down.

“It seems like it’d be awfully difficult to continue,” Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, said. “Seems like it would be hard.”

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., said, “The safe answer, of course, is that it’s up to his district.”

“But that said, I do believe there is a higher responsibility, particularly for federal office,” Rigell said. “It seems to me he must put first what’s best for his district, and I would think that would mean someone who could devote full time to this without the burden of what he’s going through.”

The Ethics Committee is bound by House rules to empanel an investigation within 30 days of the charge and will likely do so at its December meeting.

But an Ethics panel member told CQ Roll Call Wednesday the most likely outcome would be for the committee to concur with the court actions taken against Radel and offer no further repercussions.

On Wednesday, Judge Robert S. Tignor sentenced Radel to one year of probation, with some supervision, and a $250 fine for the misdemeanor possession charge.

Hannah Hess contributed to this report.

  • Defend Liberty

    Radel is a disgrace to the state of Florida. He needs to resign immediately.

  • Banshee2

    So we have a Repug Senator from LA busted in the DC Madame case and now a Repug Rep from FL busted for cocaine use, and in neither case did the Repug Congress call for their resignation. So much for conservative values. You can molest your sister or mother in the Repug party and still hold office as long as you are a Repug.

    • OldmanRick

      Wow, that senator in the DC Madam case was back in 2005. Way to go. However, any hanky-panky compromises national security and such actions should get the members tossed. However, if all those in congress with skeletons in the closed were tossed out, both chambers would be mostly empty.

    • Layla

      Dems don’t get a pass on this. Pelosi was the first to say that she thought “Republicans ought to be more humane.” Now why would she say that? Out of the goodness of her heart? There is no goodness in her heart.

      This man must go because he broke his oath of office and is no longer trustworthy. Sorry, you only get one chance. Ask Rubio.

  • John Rivas

    Where common morals and language are used, our social interactions become more predictable and the case for centralized control is weakened.

  • Socialism: Organized Evil

    Trey Radel is a disgrace. Boehner should call for his immediate resignation and forfeiture of all benefits of the office he has disgraced.

  • Socialism: Organized Evil

    In some ways, much of the current disrespect for liberty and individual responsibility results from misunderstanding the lessons of science.

  • Socialism: Organized Evil

    Trey Radel is a disgrace to the state of Florida and to these United States. He needs to resign immediately.

  • Socialism: Organized Evil

    As Elie Halevy pointed out, those who preach from collectivism’s altar claim that liberty is magically compatible with central planning.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...