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Hastert's claim that he did not know of Foley e-mails is questioned by third congressman

Hastert's claim that he did not know of Foley e-mails is questioned by third congressman

Pressure continued to build Wednesday on the beleaguered Republican leader of the House of Representatives as fresh doubts were cast on his handling of a growing scandal over inappropriate e-mails sent by a member of his party to a teenage intern.
As conservatives debated whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign, the embattled legislator has said he would not step down.
A senior House Republican said that Rep. Mark Foley's e-mails to an intern, now at the center of an intensifying federal investigation, should have been thoroughly pursued when they first surfaced last November.
The House majority whip, Roy Blunt, the No. 3 Republican, said he would have handled the matter differently if he had known about it. He was the acting majority leader or No. 2 Republican when the complaint was raised.
Although he did not criticize Hastert, his remarks to reporters were no endorsement of the speaker's actions.
"I think I could have given some good advice here, which is you have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of," Blunt said. "You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to."
On the federal investigation into Foley's communications with teenagers in the intern program, acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia told congressional officials to "preserve all records" related to the matter, according to a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Taylor's three-page letter, dated Tuesday, was sent to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to the Justice official. Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and Taylor's request signals that investigators are moving past initial assessments and closer to a criminal investigation.
Rep. Rodney Alexander, the congressman who sponsored the intern at the heart of the furor, said Hastert "knew about the e-mails that we knew about," including one in which Foley asked the intern to send his picture. But he quickly backed off that comment, saying he discussed the e-mails with Hastert's aides, not the speaker himself.
"I guess that's a poor choice of words that I made there," he told AP.
Hastert has insisted he not know about the e-mails that were discussed with his staff.
Alexander said in an interview he first took up the matter after receiving press inquiries in November, when he told Hastert's staff and the parents of the 16-year-old boy who received the e-mails. The parents wanted the correspondence stopped but apparently did not want to take the matter further.
After a second round of press inquiries in the spring, Alexander said, he again notified the family and discussed the e-mails with the new majority leader, John Boehner, on the House floor during a vote.
Alexander said Boehner turned first to the architect of the Republican midterm election campaigns, Rep. Tom Reynolds.
"I went to Boehner before Reynolds," Alexander told AP. "He sent Reynolds to me to talk about it. Within a minute Reynolds and I were talking."
Boehner and Reynolds have both said they had spoken with Hastert about a complaint concerning a former page last spring, after Alexander, the boy's congressman, told them about it.
The chairmen of two coalitions of social and fiscal conservatives in Congress rallied behind Hastert as some conservatives outside Congress demanded he step down. "Speaker Hastert is a man of integrity," Reps. Mike Pence and Joe Pitts said in a joint statement. "Speaker Dennis Hastert should not resign."
Foley resigned his House seat after e-mails and reports of lurid instant messages to teenagers in the page program were exposed last week. He checked into an alcohol rehabilitation center.
The ensuing uproar has enveloped Republicans who were already at risk at losing control of Congress in elections Nov. 7 in which all 435 House seats are at stake.
Conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie was among those who called for Hastert to step down. "The fact that they just walked away from this, it sounds like they were trying to protect one of their own members rather than these young boys," Viguerie said on Fox News.
Hastert has said he would not quit.


Updated : 2021-03-03 03:54 GMT+08:00