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Source: Hastert intends to stay as House speaker

Source: Hastert intends to stay as House speaker

House Speaker Dennis Hastert insists he will stay on as leader of House Republicans, as the ethics committee opened an investigation Thursday into an unfolding scandal over whether House leaders failed to protect teenage pages from a lawmaker's sexual overtures.
At a news conference scheduled at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT), Hastert will announce he intends to remain as speaker now and for the new term of Congress in 2007, a Republican aide said Thursday.
Meantime, negative fallout for Republicans struggling to keep control of Congress was apparent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll, conducted this week after the Foley revelations surfaced.
About half of likely voters said recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be very or extremely important in their vote next month, and Democrats enjoyed a nearly 2-to-1 advantage as the party better able to fight corruption.
Hastert asserted Wednesday that any Republicans urging his ouster were playing into the hands of Democrats and blamed his problems on the media and Democratic operatives, even suggesting former President Bill Clinton might somehow be involved.
"All I know is what I hear and what I see," he said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune on the eve of the ethics meeting. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along. If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then."
In fact, Morris, who has advised both parties, offered no independent knowledge of Democrats being aware of the Foley communications before they came out. He said on Fox News that an unidentified reporter told him a Democratic leader had known about the matter.
Hastert said "people funded by George Soros," a liberal billionaire who has plowed millions into this and other election campaigns, want to see the scandal blow up. And he warned that when the Republican "base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy."
ABC News, which broke the story last week, has said former Republican-sponsored pages _ not Democratic politicians or operatives _ were the source of revelations about lurid instant messages, after the network reported flirtatious e-mails from Foley to one page.
An extraordinary political spectacle surrounded the committee's first meeting since Foley's resignation and the fallout that followed. Some leading Republicans publicly blamed Hastert for failing to take action after he was warned about the messages. And a former Foley aide said he told Republican leaders about the Florida congressman's conduct years earlier than they have acknowledged.
With Republicans concerned about maintaining their congressional majority in the elections, support for Hastert was ebbing. Republican officials said at least a few disgruntled members of the party rank and file had discussed whether to call on the speaker to step aside. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
Hastert himself apparently was torn over how to proceed. Although he repeatedly has said he would not step down, the Illinois Republican was reported to have told a conservative activist and critic that he might consider such a move to spare the party further problems.
Paul Weyrich quoted Hastert as telling him in a phone call Wednesday that "if he thought that resigning would be helpful to the Republicans maintaining the majority, he would do it," Congressional Quarterly reported.
In Atlanta, former page Tyson Vivyan, now 26, told AP he received sexually suggestive computer messages in 1997, years before the communications exposed last week, from an anonymous sender who turned out to be Foley.
Vivyan said he visited Foley's brownstone at the congressman's invitation, bringing another page with him because he did not want to go alone. They had pizza and soft drinks, and nothing sexual happened, he said.
Republican Congressman John. J. Duncan had sponsored Vivyan as a page. His deputy chief of staff, Don Walker, said Thursday his office had heard nothing of Vivyan's contact with Foley until Monday. "As soon as we learned of it we turned it over to the authorities." Vivyan said the FBI interviewed him this week.
Foley's attorney, David Roth, declined to comment Thursday on the allegations from the former page.
The Justice Department ordered House officials to preserve all records related to Foley's electronic correspondence with teenagers. The request for record preservation is often followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.
Kirk Fordham, the former Foley aide, said in an interview with The Associated Press that more than three years ago he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene." He declined to identify them, but officials said Scott Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, was one of them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Palmer said through a spokesman, "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen."
Fordham resigned Wednesday as chief of staff to Congressman Thomas Reynolds, the House Republican campaign chief who says he alerted Hastert to concerns about Foley last spring.
Fordham disputed allegations that he covered up any misdeeds by Foley. "At no point ever did I ask anyone to block any inquiries," said Fordham, who was Foley's longtime chief of staff until leaving in January 2004.
Rep. Roy Blunt, third-ranking Republican leader, pointedly told reporters he would have handled the Foley matter differently than Hastert, had he known of it.
"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."
House Majority Leader John Boehner said in a radio interview Tuesday: "I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of. My position is it's in his corner, it's his responsibility."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the committee should question Hastert and the rest of the Republican leadership under oath.
Foley, 52, resigned Friday after he was confronted with sexually explicit electronic messages he had sent teenage male pages. He has since entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location. Through his lawyer, he has said he is gay but denied any sexual contact with minors.
His abrupt departure and the ensuing sex scandal has shaken Republican confidence _ and poll numbers _ and plunged Hastert and others into an intensive effort to grapple with conflicting claims about what senior lawmakers knew, when they learned it and what they did about it.
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On the Net:
http://www.house.gov/ethics


Updated : 2020-12-04 14:06 GMT+08:00