MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The congressional panel looking into the Mark Foley scandal met today. As usual, behind closed doors. Members heard from the House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and the former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl. Trandahl was in charge of the congressional page program until late last year.
Also today, reports that an elderly priest now living on an island near Malta acknowledged the relationship with Foley when Foley was young, but he denied that the two ever had sex. Foley has claimed that he was abused by a member of the clergy as a young man.
NPR's Peter Overby is following all of this and joins us now from Capitol Hill.
And, Peter, let's start with the Ethics Committee. Remind us why the House majority leader was called to testify before the committee. What's his involvement here?
PETER: OVERBY: His involvement is that the House leaders, the Republican leaders are giving contradictory stories about what they knew and when they knew it. And the House Ethics Committee has decided it's their job to find out. John Boehner is the majority leader. He testified for about 90 minutes. He says that in the spring of 2005 he and another Republican leader talked with House Speaker Dennis Hastert about it. Hastert says that he didn't know about this until the fall of 2005. When Boehner came out of the committee today, he talked about it briefly. We have a little bit of tape from that.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): I made myself clear on the record for the last three weeks, and I told the Ethics Committee today the same things that I've told many of you. Thank you.
OVERBY: So he didn't repeat what he had said earlier, but the discrepancy is lying there between Boehner and Hastert.
SIEGEL: Now this morning another key player in this testified. It's the former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl. Again, what's his role here?
OVERBY: The House clerk oversees the page program. There are different accounts of when Trandahl got involved; they go as early as 2001 that Trandahl saw problems with Foley's behavior. He tried to enlist lawmakers and leadership staff. He hasn't said anything. His accounts come from other people, and he was there to talk about that. He's not said anything to the press. His lawyer says he won't.
SIEGEL: What is the scene like at the committee? Well, obviously, the reporters can't get inside, but is there a massive crowd of journalists outside waiting for everyone?
OVERBY: There is. It's in the House basement, which says something about what the House thinks of the Ethics Committee. There are usually about 40 reporters, photographers, camera people hanging out there. The witnesses and their lawyers typically come out and usually don't say anything.
For instance today, Trandahl and his lawyer came out with one other person. It was like sort of a flying wedge. They were ready to stiff-arm anyone who came too close to ask a question. They just plowed right through the scrum and headed for the exit.
SIEGEL: Now I've read that there have been about a dozen witnesses so far, but about four dozen subpoenas. Will the witnesses to come later include the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert?
OVERBY: It seems likely. The House Ethics Committee does not have a habit of backing down from talking to speakers. And so it seems likely that he'll be testifying.
SIEGEL: Now, as I mentioned earlier, a priest has acknowledged knowing former Congressman Foley when he was a Florida teenager and an altar boy. Tell us what you know about that.
OVERBY: This is Reverend Anthony Mercieca. He, like you said, lives on an island near Malta. He's 69-years-old. He says that he was a friend of Foley's back in the mid-'60s, when Foley was about 13. He had dinner at Foley's family's house. He and Foley were naked together in saunas but he told the Associated Press it was not sexual. Foley has been ambiguous about this. His lawyer raised the issue of sexual abuse by a priest, but he has also said that Foley doesn't blame that for the way he acted with the House pages.
SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, Peter.
OVERBY: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Peter Overby talking to us from Capitol Hill.
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