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Ethics panel approves subpoenas in new investigation of House sex scandal

Ethics panel approves subpoenas in new investigation of House sex scandal

The House of Representatives Ethics Committee on Thursday launched an investigation of a congressional page sex scandal that has imperiled Republican election prospects, approving dozens of subpoenas for documents and testimony.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings, said a newly formed subcommittee's investigation "will go wherever our evidence leads us."
Asked if embattled House leader Dennis Hastert was among those subpoenaed, Hastings would not comment.
"We are looking at weeks, not months," said the committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman.
A House Republican official said that Hastert, fighting to save his job as speaker, will take responsibility for the unfolding scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, but will insist that he will stay on as leader of House Republicans at a news conference scheduled later in his home state of Illinois.
Hastert will ask former FBI director Louis Freeh to also examine the page system and make recommendations on how to improve the program, almost as old as the Congress itself. Freeh headed the FBI from 1993 to 2001 during Bill Clinton's presidency.
Hastert also will also ask the Ethics Committee to consider new rules so that anyone making inappropriate contact with pages be disciplined. In the case of staff, they would be fired; lawmakers would be subject to expulsion, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity so as to not upstage Hastert.
Hastings said the subpoenas cover lawmakers and staff as well as appointed officers of the House.
Hastert praised the ethic committee's actions and said he would instruct his attorney to cooperate with the panel "in getting to the bottom of this."
"The committee is moving to get control of this situation and find answers to provide all of us peace of mind," he said in a statement.
"Any person who is found guilty of improper conduct involving sexual contact or communication with a page should immediately resign, be fired, or subjected to a vote of expulsion," Hastert said.
A former Republican aide said Wednesday he had expressed concerns to top officials in Hastert's office about Foley's behavior with pages more than three years ago.
The ethics subcommittee will be made up of Hastings, Berman, Rep. Judy Biggert and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones.
"We have ideological and philosophical differences," Berman acknowledged. "We are going to put those differences totally aside" for the investigation.
As Hastert huddled with aides to write a statement to be delivered at the news conference, the ethics panel opened an investigation into the unfolding scandal over Foley's come-ons to teenage congressional pages and accusations _ even by some Republicans _ that House leaders failed to protect the teens.
A former House aide said Wednesday that he alerted the speaker's staff more than three years ago that Foley's conduct was a problem.
The swift-moving developments came as a furor mounted over the revelations about Foley and his resignation last Friday. 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.
Some leading Republicans have 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 Nov. 7 elections, support for Hastert was ebbing. Republican officials said at least a few disgruntled members of the GOP 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.


Updated : 2021-04-17 22:40 GMT+08:00