Hastert Calls for Probe of Foley E-Mail
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
In Washington, House Speaker Dennis Hastert has requested a criminal investigation into former Republican Congressman Mark Foley's explicit electronic messages to teenage pages. Hastert sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez asking the Justice Department to determine if any of Foley's actions broke the law. Democrats have accused the Republican leadership of ignoring Foley's behavior. Joining us now is NPR congressional reporter Andrea Seabrook. Andrea, what exactly is speaker Hastert calling for?
ANDREA SEABROOK: Well, speaker Hastert is generally sending this whole thing, he hopes, to the Justice Department. He wants the Justice Department to follow a couple different lines of investigation here: one into whether the e-mails were inappropriate to minors, breaking any federal statutes in that arena - also whether they broke any laws of interstate communications. There are those two lines that they can follow here in the investigation.
Also, the reason why the speaker is sending it is because he says the House Ethics Committee now has no jurisdiction over the matter at all now that Foley, from Florida, has resigned from Congress. Now he's just basically a civilian, a regular guy like you and I - a former congressman. You know, I just spoke with the speaker's press secretary a few minutes ago. His name is Ron Bonjean, and he told me that Speaker Hastert wants the Justice Department to look into another aspect of this as well.
Mr. RON BONJEAN (Press Secretary for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert): He's also requested there probably been taking - an undertaking investigation into who had any knowledge, specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications from Mr. Foley in any former or current House pages and what actions anyone took.
ELLIOTT: Andrea, what did the speaker know?
SEABROOK: That's the big question, Debbie. That is what everyone is wondering today. What did the speaker know? And when? The speaker, in his letter to Alberto Gonzalez, sort of separates the e-mails that Congressman Foley wrote to these young teenage boys into two separate groups. E-mails that were "overly-friendly," that's in quotes. That's using the speaker's words. And then especially text messages that are messages sent over the phone that were sexually explicit. By several accounts from other members of congress, other Republicans, Hastert knew about the e-mails, the "over-friendly e-mails" to quote him, as early as last fall. But then again, I spoke to the speaker's press secretary, Ron Bonjean, and he told me that the speaker certainly didn't know about the more egregious ones.
Mr. BONJEAN: The speaker has no knowledge of sexually explicit e-mails that were sent by Mr. Foley to anyone.
ELLIOTT: So Andrea, this should be interesting - all coming out right here before the election.
SEABROOK: Yes, not a good news day for the Republicans. This is - really could not come at a worse time for them, or conversely at a better time for Democrats. But sticking to what the Republicans are doing right now, they are in serious damage control. Not only are they suddenly - is a seat, a congressional seat that had once looked pretty safe for them, to keep them - Mark Foley's seat in Florida. Is it now in play? But they also have to worry about how this looks for the entire leadership of the Republican Congress. This could definitely spin out of control for the Republicans in these few weeks left before the mid-term elections.
ELLIOTT: NPR's Andrea Seabrook. Thank you.
SEABROOK: You're welcome.