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Lott Says Retirement Not Tied To Brother-in-law's Indictment

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), whose sudden retirement announcement caught Senate GOP leaders by surprise last week, strongly denied any link between his decision and the indictment of Mississippi lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who is Lott's brother-in-law.

Scruggs was indicted last Wednesday on federal corruption charges for allegedly offering a $50,000 bribe to a Mississippi state judge in a dispute with another lawyer. Also indicted were Scruggs' son and two other lawyers. Scruggs, who was charged just two days after Lott's retirement announcement, has denied any wrongdoing.

Lott said his decision to step down had nothing to do with Scruggs, and the veteran senator said he was not even aware that Scruggs was under investigation by the Justice Department.

Lott also suggested that Scruggs made have been the target of an FBI "sting," but he added: "I don't know the facts."

"No, it had nothing at all to do with it," Lott said of the Scruggs' indictment and his own decision to step down. "I didn't know that he was under investigation. I never heard anything about it."

Lott had said he has heard the various rumors regarding his decision to retire, but said the real reason is that which he publicly declared at his first press conference in Pascagoula, Miss. - it was just time for him to leave the Senate.

"I have heard everything," said Lott "That it was a health problem, that it was a sex problem, that it was a problem with his brother-in-law. None of that is true, not even close."

Lott said he has spoken to Scruggs, who he is husband of his wife's younger sister, just once since the indictment. Lott said Scruggs "is still my friend," and he suspects that the well-known lawyer became enmeshed in "a sting" by the FBI.

But Lott didn't offer any further defense of Scruggs, and the Mississippi Republican added again that "I just don't know."