DeLay's Denial

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, makes a statement in his office on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005 in Washington. A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post. A defiant DeLay insisted he was innocent and called the prosecutor a "fanatic."
AP
A Texas grand jury on Wednesday indicted Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates on charges of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post. A defiant DeLay insisted he was innocent and called the prosecutor a "partisan fanatic."

"I have done nothing wrong. ... I am innocent," DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference during which he criticized the Texas prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, repeatedly. DeLay said the charges amounted to "one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history."

In Austin, Earle told reporters, "Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public." He has noted previously that he has prosecuted many Democrats in the past.

DeLay's attorneys said they're working out the details of when the 11-term congressman would return to Texas in hopes of saving him from further embarrassment. He's to be photographed and fingerprinted.

Republicans at the Capitol selected Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the current Republican whip — No. 3 in the leadership ranks — to fill the vacancy temporarily.

Reps. David Dreier of California, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, the chief deputy whip, will assist Blunt with some of the majority leader duties.

CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart reports that the charges against DeLay come at a particularly bad time for Republicans: The president is slipping in the polls, his initiatives are dying on Capitol Hill, and the man the White House had counted on to turn that fight around now stands indicted.

Seventy House seats could be up for grabs in the mid-term elections, and Republicans are very worried now because they know they cannot depend on this president and his coattails any longer, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.

Republicans expressed their backing for DeLay, the first House leader to be indicted in office in at least a century.

"He will fight this and we give him our utmost support," said Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois following a private GOP meeting.

DeLay said he was certain the indictment would be dismissed and shrugged off the charges as a "political witch hunt" designed to drive a wedge in the Republican ranks.

"If the Democrats think we're going to go crawl in a hole and not accomplish our agenda, I wish they could have been a fly on the wall" of the closed-door meeting, DeLay said after the session.

The indictment accused DeLay, 58, of a conspiracy to violate Texas election law, which prohibits the use of corporate donations to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates. Prosecutors say the alleged scheme worked in a roundabout way, with the donations going to a DeLay-founded political committee, then to the Republican National Committee and eventually to GOP candidates in Texas.