WASHINGTON (CNN) - Retiring Sen. Trent Lott said Wednesday his sudden departure from Capitol Hill after 35 years has nothing to do with the bribery indictment of his brother-in-law, famed trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, which was handed down two days after Lott said he would leave the Senate.
"I had no idea it was coming," said Lott.
In an interview just off the Senate floor, Lott, who was just re-elected to a fourth term but who will leave it five years early, said rumors are swirling about why he's leaving.
"Those are the same people who said Trent Lott must have health problem. No, he's got a sex problem. No, he's got a financial problem. Oh no, it's connected to his brother-in-law," Lott said. "None of the above."
In fact, Lott says he called Scruggs after the indictment and ribbed him for stealing the limelight just after Lott made his highly publicized announcement that he was moving to the private sector.
"That's the kind of relationship we have. He's a typical brother-in-law.
They're a pain in the neck but they're your brother-in-law. They're married to your wife's sister," he said chuckling.
On a more serious note, Lott said he was "not surprised" that one associate of Scruggs pleaded guilty Wednesday in the case that involves the attempted bribery of a Mississippi judge who was ruling on a dispute between lawyers over millions in attorneys fees from a Katrina-related law suit against State Farm Insurance.
The attorney who pleaded guilty, Timothy Balducci, was accused of bringing thousands of dollars to the judge on behalf of Scruggs in order to win a favorable ruling in the case. The judge had alerted law enforcement about the attempted bribes and was wearing an FBI wire.
But Lott said he assumes Scruggs will be found innocent and suspects he might have been set up.
"This guy doesn't need the money. He's too smart for this. The couple of people with him, they wouldn't do that." Lott said. "It's probably a set-up, in my opinion
The senator said he hasn't discussed the details of the case with Scruggs, in part, because, "I assume his phones are tapped."
– CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett