AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Dennis Hastert was the longest serving Republican to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. And yesterday, federal officials announced he has been indicted. They allege Hastert concealed large amounts of cash withdrawals used as payments and then lied to federal authorities about it. Now multiple sources, including The New York Times and NBC News, are reporting that those payments, to someone identified only as individual A, were to conceal sexual misconduct. NPR has not independently confirmed the specifics of the allegations against Hastert. NPR's Cheryl Corley joins us from Chicago now. And Cheryl, briefly remind us about the federal charges brought against Hastert.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Well, here's what we know for sure, Audie. The federal indictment alleges that Dennis Hastert agreed to pay three and a half million dollars to an individual, individual A, to conceal behavior in his past. Individual A is only identified as a person from Yorkville, Ill., who new Dennis Hastert most of his life. Heâs been charged specifically with evading bank regulations for withdrawing under $10,000 at a time to make alleged hush payments. Heâs also charged with lying to the FBI about his reasons for the bank withdrawals. Now, the indictment didnât disclose the nature of that behavior, but as you mentioned, other news outlets have reported that federal law enforcement officials have told them that the speaker was paying a male from his past to conceal sexual misconduct.
CORNISH: So Cheryl, these payments, which are alleged to be hush money, according to those close to the investigation â theyâre not tied to his time in office?
CORLEY: Not at all they are tied, apparently, to his time in Yorkville when he was a teacher and a wrestling coach. He even took the school to a state wrestling championship during his time there. He got the job when he was in his early 20s. He worked at the school for 16 years from 1965 to 1981. Thatâs reportedly when the sexual conduct occurred. But in a statement today, the school district said it was first made aware of any concerns regarding the former congressman when the indictment was released.
CORNISH: Cheryl, to step back, Hastertâs legacy on Capitol Hill â can you talk about what that was?
CORLEY: Well, he rose to become speaker of the House during a really chaotic time when there was much dissatisfaction in the Republican ranks with then-speaker Newt Gingrich who resigned. Hastert was voted speaker in 1999 in part because of his small-town roots and his really good reputation. He went on to serve eight years and became the Republicansâ longest-serving speaker.
CORNISH: Thatâs NPRâs Cheryl Corley in Chicago. Cheryl, thanks.
CORLEY: Youâre welcome.
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