Embarrassed Radel returns to Congress after rehab stint

A repentant Trey Radel returned to Congress this week just over six weeks after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine. At the top of the his list: make amends, and keep working for his constituents.

“I feel that I have the strength, the abilities and the capabilities to move forward and that's what I want to do,” Radel, a Florida Republican, told Ft. Myers, Fla., CBS affiliate WINK-TV when asked if he had considered resigning his position. “I understand the gravity of what I’ve done but I hope a lot of people can take some time, reflect on the good that I’ve done because I want to carry that into 2014. I want to do what the people have elected me to do.”

In the interview, Radel acknowledged the “embarrassing” episode in which he purchased cocaine from undercover agents conducting a sting operation.  Hewas sentenced to one year of minimally supervised probation and ordered to pay a $250 fine to a victim’s compensation fund. He took a leave of absence to undergo treatment in Naples, Fla.

“I’ve dragged my family through a lot. I have made a real conscious effort to shut off the computer, not look at the internet and not watch the TV because I know that I’ve caused a lot of pain.”

Radel said he apologized to his colleagues at a meeting in the Capitol this morning and thanked them for their support, along with offering assurances that he has built a support system for himself. He spoke with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, before leaving Washington to seek treatment, but wouldn’t say what they talked about.

Though top Florida Republicans including Gov. Rick Scott and the chairman of the Florida Republican Party have called on Radel to step down, he has insisted he will not.

“You learn in the support system that I’ve been able to put together that you don’t do radical changes in life, blow up your life. You deal with life and that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

His GOP colleagues in the House have not echoed calls for him to resign, but the House Ethics Committee announced in December that it would investigate whether he violated the congressional rules of conduct.

“I would like to say that I feel great, but the reality is that I have a lot of work to. Physically I do feel really well, but I understand how profound this is, the mistakes I’ve made in life and what I need to do to make that up,” Radel said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.