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House GOP leaders and the FBI faced new questions on Monday over their handling of the sex scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), with Democrats and a Congressional watchdog group suggesting Foley’s activities were covered up or deliberately ignored for months to keep his seat under Republican control.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other top Republicans to be questioned under oath by the ethics committee regarding their handling of the Foley scandal, including what they knew, and when, about a series of July 2005 e-mails from Foley to a 16-year-old former Congressional page and how they responded to the incident.
Hastert has said repeatedly that he was not personally aware of the initial batch of Foley e-mails since the scandal first broke last Thursday, although Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) have both stated publicly that they informed the Speaker of the messages in the spring or early summer of this year. Boehner now says he cannot remember whether he told Hastert, and Hastert himself does not “recall or remember” any conversation with Reynolds regarding Foley.
“Republican Leaders admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley’s abhorrent behavior for six months to a year and failed to protect the children in their trust,” Pelosi said in a statement released by her office. “Republican Leaders must be investigated by the Ethics Committee and immediately questioned under oath.”
Three of Hastert’s top aides were made aware of the Foley e-mails in the fall of 2005 by Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), according to a timeline released by the Speaker’s office on Saturday. The teen lived in Alexander’s district, and his parents sought Alexander’s help in getting Foley to stop contacting their son.
The July 2005 e-mails do not include sexually explicit language but were disturbing enough that Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Page Board, and Jeff Trandahl, the former Clerk of the House, interviewed Foley about them last year. Foley agreed to stop the e-mails, and Hastert’s staff was then informed of his promise but took no further action, according to Hastert’s office. Hastert told reporters on Monday that “there [was] no reason to bump it up to me at that time.”
Since ABC News first reported on the July 2005 e-mails last Thursday, a series of electronic messages between Foley and other former pages have surfaced, a number of which include sexually graphic comments by the former lawmaker to teenage boys. Foley resigned from the House on Friday, and his Congressional office was taken over by the Clerk of the House. Foley has reportedly checked himself into alcohol rehabilitation in Florida, becoming the second GOP lawmaker to do so in the past month.
The House approved a resolution late Friday evening directing the ethics panel to look into the Foley scandal, although Reps. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking member of the committee, have not announced yet if or how they would conduct any investigation.