More FBI Tales.
In the "ain't what it appears" department, ABC explains why House Speaker Denny Hastert yesterday boldly condemned the FBI's raid on the office of Democrat William Jefferson:
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.The implication: Hastert is more concerned about raids on his own office than on the constitutional concerns raised by the FBI raiding Jefferson's.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.
The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.
The story has developed substantially since this broke yesterday (and there's a Portland connection, which I'll capture in a subsequent post). Last night, the DOJ issued a one-sentence refutation of the story: "Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department."
Ah, but ABC isn't backing off the story. Even later last night, they stuck to their guns:
Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement sources tonight said ABC News accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is "in the mix" in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress....Which clears everything up, right? No! The DOJ issued a second statement after midnight (EDT):
ABC’s law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal "target" or "subject" of the investigation.
"With regard to reports suggesting that the Speaker of the House is under investigation or 'in the mix,' as stated by ABC News, I reconfirm, as stated by the Department earlier this evening, that these reports are untrue."Denny Hastert issued this statement (.pdf), also denying the story:
“The ABC News report is absolutely untrue. As confirmed by the Justice Department, ‘Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.’ We are demanding a full retraction of the ABC News story. The Speaker’s earlier statement issued today accurately reflects the facts regarding this matter.”And that is where we stand. ABC has no further news, but I'll update the story as it evolves.