Hastert Goes Before Congressional Panel


(Gold9472: Admittedly, I'm not really following the "Page Scandal", but I dislike Dennis Hastert so much, I couldn't resist.)

Oct 24, 1:42 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Tuesday sat down with ethics investigators trying to pin down when he and his staff learned about ex-Rep. Mark Foley's come-ons to former male pages and what they did to stop it.

The timeline that Hastert and his staff have given conflicts with the accounts of others. Hastert, R-Ill., has said that he didn't find out about Foley until late September, when Foley's approaches to the former pages became public.

The House Republican campaign chairman, at odds with Hastert over when he first learned about the problem, said Tuesday investigators must learn how this happened for the sake of "the continued integrity of this institution."

Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., appearing before reporters after answering questions from members of a four-person ethics panel, would not comment on his repeated public assertions that he warned Hastert about Foley last spring. Hastert, R-Ill., says he first learned about Foley less than a month ago.

Hastert, expected to testify this week, has said he doesn't recall the conversation.

After his closed-door testimony, Reynolds urged a "full and fair investigation of the facts" and said that "I strongly encourage any of my colleagues who have information that may be of relevance to bring it to the committee's attention at once."

Hastert has returned to Washington for testimony this week. He would not tell reporters Tuesday when he'll testify.

Previously, Reynolds has said he does not remember what month he told Hastert about the worrisome computer e-mails and private messages that Foley sent to teenage male pages - only that it happened sometime in the spring. Reynolds also has said he did not recall the details of the conversation.

A four-member subcommittee of the House ethics committee is keeping key witnesses behind closed doors for hours as it tries to unravel conflicts over when and what Hastert and his staff learned about Foley's conduct and what they did about it.

Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, spent more than six hours before the committee Monday. Palmer has disputed one account that he was warned about Foley in 2002 or 2003.

Reynolds, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has said he spoke with Hastert last spring after learning of Foley's overly friendly e-mails to a former Louisiana page, who was 16 at the time. Those e-mails were not sexually explicit.

The speaker has said he can't recall the Reynolds warning, and has contended he doesn't remember having a separate conversation about Foley earlier this year with Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner not only recalls speaking with Hastert, but said the speaker told him the page's complaint "had been taken care of."

Boehner said after his recent testimony in the case that he didn't change the account of his actions.

Campaigning for a Republican candidate in Tennessee, Hastert said Monday he plans to testify before the committee this week.

"What Mark Foley did was wrong. It was ethically wrong. It's a shame. It's actually disgusting," Hastert told reporters after a campaign rally in Johnson City, Tenn.

In Washington, Palmer's lawyer, Scott Fredericksen, said his client hasn't changed his version of events. Former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham has said he warned the Hastert aide about Foley at least three years ago.

"What Kirk Fordham said did not happen," Palmer said weeks ago in his lone public statement on the matter.

Fredericksen said the testimony was "consistent with the position he's taken all along."

Palmer spent more time in the committee offices than any other witness in three weeks of testimony, entering at 1:57 p.m. and leaving at 8:18 p.m.

Foley, R-Fla., resigned his seat Sept. 29 after he was confronted with sexually explicit instant messages he sent to former pages other than the Louisiana youngster.

Hastert has a lot riding on the outcome of the ethics investigation. He has fended off calls for his resignation with statements that his staff members acted properly after they learned a year ago about Foley's friendly messages to the Louisiana page.

Hastert said his staff notified the chief clerk, who confronted Foley along with Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the chairman of the House board overseeing the page program. Foley was told to stop contacting the youngster.

Hastert said he didn't learn about Foley until late this September, when the scandal became public and Foley left Congress.

The speaker has vowed to fire any of his aides if they covered up knowledge of Foley's behavior.