Foley case threatens to swallow Hastert & others

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 at 04:38 PM

The infighting is getting pretty intense in Republand, with one story after another indicating that this is (1) not over by a longshot; (2) getting very close to singeing the ample posterior of one Dennis Hastert, and (3) likely to drag a whole bunch of others, whether elected Representatives or their staffs, into the inferno.

1. A senior House Republican has asked the House clerk to look into allegations that Mark Foley was turned away from the congressional page dorm on Capitol Hill after arriving there intoxicated one night.

A Florida paper reports that:

Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, is calling for a further investigation of the dorm report.
"Congresswoman Pryce contacted the clerk and asked her to look into this rumor," said Geoff Embler, a spokesman for Pryce.

Rep. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, asked Pryce and other House leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, about the alleged incident during a conference call Monday evening, Embler said.
Pryce also sent a letter to all Republican House members urging them to contact the proper authorities if they have specific information about allegedly inappropriate behavior by any House member, staffer or employee, Embler said.
A search of official incident reports logged by the U.S. Capitol Police, who provide security at the dorm, turned up no mention of Foley, said Jeffrey Scruggs, an officer in the department's reports processing division.

And no complaints have been filed against Foley by anyone at the page dorm, said Salley Collins, a spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee, which oversees the clerk's office.

2. A senior congressional aide to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y resigns then claims to have told Hastert's office about Foley's improper conduct with pages back in 2003

First, Raw Story and others reported that Kirk Fordham, once an aide to Foley and until today a top aide for Reynolds, resigned amid questions about whether he had tried to intercede on Foley's behalf with ABC news before they published the IM and e-mail messages between Foley and congressional pages.

Then, AP reports that Fordham:

said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about worrisome conduct by his former boss, Rep. Mark Foley, toward teenage pages more than three years ago, long before officials have acknowledged becoming aware of the issue.

Kirk Fordham made his comments to The Associated Press in an interview as a Kentucky Republican canceled a campaign fundraising event with Hastert. Rep. Ron Lewis said he wants to know the facts behind a scandal that has roiled Republicans since last week.
Fordham said he was serving as Foley's chief of staff when he was told about the lawmaker's inappropriate behavior toward pages more than three years ago. He said he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene" at the time.

Fordham declined to identify the officials in Hastert's office he spoke with.
"Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005," Fordham said.

3. Federal investigators have asked the House of Representatives to preserve Foley's computer records and papers

As a first step to the federal investigation of Foley's Folly, CNN reports that:

Federal investigators have asked the House of Representatives to keep computer records and papers from former Rep. Mark Foley, a senior Justice Department official said Wednesday.

The move is a sign that a criminal investigation into the congressman's correspondences with teen pages is imminent, perhaps within days, Justice Department officials said.

The investigation remains a preliminary inquiry, but a full criminal investigation will pave the way for subpoenas, searches and grand jury testimony, Justice Department officials said.

House members are expected to cooperate with any necessary searches during the probe, according to federal law enforcement sources.

4. The FBI and the watchdog group CREW are disputing whether the FBI had enough info to investigate Foley back in July

The same CNN report indicates that:

The Washington watchdog group that first published the inappropriate e-mails between Foley and a Louisiana teenager said Wednesday that it told the FBI in July about Foley's communications. Those messages were deemed by a congressman who oversees the page program inappropriate but not sexually explicit.

The FBI contends that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington did not provide enough information -- including the pages' identities and e-mail addresses -- to pursue the case. The FBI reviewed copies of the messages, government officials said, but did not have enough information to move forward with an investigation or seek subpoenas.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan disputed that account, saying the FBI was given the teen's full e-mail address July 21. CREW received the e-mails that day from "a third party who had gotten them from a congressional staffer," she said.

Sloan said they were sent via e-mail to the FBI.

"The agent called me to follow up to say, 'So, these are e-mails from Mark Foley?' And I said, 'Yes.' And that was the end of our interaction," she said.

CREW has questioned whether the White House helped "cover up Rep. Foley's conduct and leave a potential sexual predator on the loose." The group also asked the Justice Department's inspector-general to investigate why the FBI didn't take further action.

So.....possible failure to act by Hastert and the leadership (you think knowledge of this report by Fordham is what has been behind so many of the Repubs turning on Hastert so early?). Possible failure to act by the FBI.  If the FBI failed to act, questions about who might have influenced them to refrain from investigating.  And a possible incident of Foley arriving at the pages' dorm, drunk.

There is so much potential for a major scandal that it isn't funny.  And it definitely isn't funny.  Any deliberate cover-up by the Republicans and/or FBI and/or the U.S. Capitol Police is very likely to have been motivated by Party concern with PR and elections, with a possible sprinkling of protect-your-buddy-over-the-pages.  And that will NOT play well with any segment of the voting public, especially with the deep-pocketed, very active Christian right.

Stay tuned, if your stomach can take it.