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Ethics panel approves subpoenas in new investigation of House page sex scandal; House leader reasserts he is remaining in job

Ethics panel approves subpoenas in new investigation of House page sex scandal; House leader reasserts he is remaining in job

The House of Representatives' Ethics Committee opened an expansive investigation into the unfolding page sex scandal Thursday by approving four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents, as the House Republican leader held his ground against pressure to resign.
"I'm deeply sorry this has happened and the bottom line is we're taking responsibility," Speaker Dennis Hastert said at a news conference.
"Ultimately, the buck stops here," the speaker said of the controversy enveloping the House and the page program, a venerable institution almost as old as the Congress itself.
Hastert was abruptly changing the tactics he has followed since the scandal broke last week. As recently as Wednesday, he blamed Democrats for the scandal and insisted he had done nothing wrong.
The uproar came a month before congressional elections in which all 435 seats in the House are at stake. Democrats have a good chance of wresting control of the chamber from the Republicans.
The Ethics Committee chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings, said a newly formed subcommittee's investigation "will go wherever our evidence leads us."
Asked if embattled Hastert was among those subpoenaed, Hastings would not comment. Hastings said the subpoenas cover lawmakers and staff as well as appointed officers of the House.
The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman, said the investigation should take "weeks, not months."
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 earlier.
"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.
Hastert was said by officials in advance of the speaker's news conference to have planned to ask former FBI Director Louis Freeh to also examine the page system and make recommendations. But that did not immediately materialize, and Hastert did not broach Freeh's at a news conference in his home state of Illinois.
Congressional aides said Hastert called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to suggest Freeh, but that Pelosi objected.
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.
As Hastert huddled with aides earlier Thursday, the ethics panel opened its investigation into Foley's computer-message advances 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 elections, support for Hastert was ebbing. Republican officials said at least a few disgruntled members of the Republican 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.
Foley, 52, stepped down 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.
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On the Net:
http://www.house.gov/ethics


Updated : 2021-03-04 15:04 GMT+08:00