JUNEAU - Gov. Sarah Palin today said indicted U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens "has dedicated his life to the betterment of the state" and said she couldn't say yet whether he should resign.
Speaking to reporters in her Capitol office at 12:30 p.m., Palin said the federal indictment "rocks the foundation of our state."
Asked whether Stevens should quit the Senate, Palin said she hadn't had a chance to fully read the 28-page indictment and said it "would be premature at this point" to call for Stevens to resign, as she did in the case of state Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, after he was recently indicted on federal charges including bribery.
Palin said she has no interest in leaving her job as governor should the Republican Party look to find a replacement for Stevens on the election ballot.
Palin also addressed the news from Monday that state legislators approved an expenditure of up to $100,000 to investigate whether she abused her powers as governor in dismissing her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan.
Lawmakers said they might resort to subpoenas to compel testimony from uncooperative witnesses, but Palin said she didn't think that would be necessary. She said she and her aides would talk with the independent investigator legislators plan to hire.
"I'm ready to be interviewed today," Palin said.
She said she did nothing wrong in firing Monegan, who has said he felt pressure to dismiss a state trooper involved in a nasty divorce with Palin's sister.
"I did not do anything wrong," Palin said. "I did not pressure Walt Monegan to hire, fire anybody."
Palin said she hopes the Stevens indictment won't distract state lawmakers from the job of considering a state natural gas pipeline license for TransCanada Corp.
Lawmakers are meeting in special session on the issue, and the Senate has until midnight Saturday to join the House in approving the license or the TransCanada deal is dead.
Many Capitol observers believe the Senate leadership is stalling in a possible attempt to kill the license by not bringing it to a floor vote.
Palin said she's holding meetings with lawmakers today, listening to any lingering questions or concerns they might have on the license, which is a top Palin priority.
"The right thing to do is allow that vote to come on the floor, either yea or nay," she said.
Find Wesley Loy online at adn.com/contact/wloy or call him in Juneau at 586-1531.
PDF: Sen. Murkowski statement
Transcript: Department of Justice news conference
Video: Department of Justice press conference
PDF: Stevens' statement
PDF: Stevens indictment
By WESLEY LOY