Page scandal heats up as key staff member resigns

By ANDREW TAYLOR and LARA JAKES JORDAN

The Justice Department ordered House officials to "preserve all records" related to disgraced Rep. Mark Foley’s electronic correspondence with teenagers, intensifying an investigation into a scandal rocking Republicans five weeks before midterm elections.

The development came as a congressional aide who counseled Foley to resign last week submitted his own resignation Wednesday. "I never attempted to prevent any inquiries or investigation," Kirk Fordham said in a statement.


Fordham was once Foley’s chief of staff. At the time of his resignation he had been serving in the same capacity for Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., a member of the GOP leadership who has struggled to avoid political damage in the scandal’s fallout.

Republicans have been struggling to put the scandal behind them, but another member of the leadership, Rep Roy Blunt of Missouri, said pointedly during the day he would have handled the entire matter differently than Speaker Dennis Hastert did, had he known about the complaints when they were first raised last year.

"I think I could have given some good advice here, which is you have to be curious. You have to ask all the questions you can think of," Blunt said. "You absolutely can’t decide not to look into activities because one individual’s parents don’t want you to."

Foley resigned last week after he was reported to have sent salacious electronic messages to teenage male pages. He has checked into an undisclosed facility for treatment of alcoholism, leaving behind a mushrooming political scandal and legal investigation.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia sought protection of the records in a three-page letter to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to a Justice official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.

The request was aimed at averting a conflict with the House similar to a standoff in May when FBI agents raided Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson’s office seeking information in a bribery investigation.

Meanwhile, FBI agents have begun interviewing participants in the House page program, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The official declined to say whether the interviews were limited to current pages or included former pages.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos stressed that the investigation is still preliminary. Also, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that it has begun its own preliminary inquiry. Spokesman Tom Berlinger said the case is in its initial stages and is not a full-blown criminal inquiry.

Fordham played a key role in fast-developing events late last week. Initially, Foley was reported to have written overly friendly — not sexually explicit — e-mails to a former Capitol page. A day later, ABC news followed up with a report that said the Florida lawmaker had also sent sexually explicit instant messages to at least one other male page.

He said earlier this week he asked Foley about the sexually explicit instant messages, and the congressman confirmed they were probably his.

"Like so many, I feel betrayed by Mark Foley’s indefensible behavior," he said. He blamed Democrats for seeking to make a political issue of the matter in Reynolds’ re-election campaign, "and I will not let them do so."

There were signs of concern among Republicans, as well.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona called for a group of former senators and others to investigate how the House handled the affair.

"We need to move forward quickly and we need to reach conclusions and recommendations about who is responsible," McCain said during a campaign speech for Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. "I think it needs to be addressed by people who are credible."

Some other Republicans rallied to the speaker. The chairmen of two coalitions of social and fiscal conservatives in Congress said he should not step down. "Speaker Hastert is a man of integrity," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., said in a joint statement.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., the congressman who sponsored the page at the heart of the furor, said Hastert "knew about the e-mails that we knew about," including one in which Foley asked the page to send his picture. But he quickly backed off that comment, saying he discussed the e-mails with Hastert’s aides, not the speaker himself.

"I guess that’s a poor choice of words that I made there," he told AP.

Hastert has insisted he not know about the e-mails that were discussed with his staff.

Alexander said in an interview he first took up the matter after receiving press inquiries in November, when he told Hastert’s staff and the parents of the 16-year-old boy who received the e-mails. The parents wanted the correspondence stopped but apparently did not want to take the matter further.

After a second round of press inquiries in the spring, Alexander said, he again notified the family and discussed the e-mails with the new majority leader, John Boehner of Ohio, on the House floor during a vote.

Alexander said Boehner turned first to Reynolds, the architect of the Republican midterm election strategy.

"I went to Boehner before Reynolds," Alexander told AP. "He sent Reynolds to me to talk about it. Within a minute Reynolds and I were talking."

Boehner and Reynolds have both said they had spoken with Hastert about a complaint concerning a former page from Louisiana last spring, after Alexander told them about it.

The uproar that followed Foley’s resignation has enveloped Republicans who were already at risk at losing control of Congress in elections five weeks away.

Conservative activist Richard A. Viguerie was among those who called for Hastert to step down. "The fact that they just walked away from this, it sounds like they were trying to protect one of their own members rather than these young boys," Viguerie said on Fox News.

Hastert has he would not quit.

Alexander defended Hastert on Wednesday, as well as his own response.

"Hey, what else was I supposed to do?" Alexander asked. "I was very uncomfortable even talking to somebody in the speaker’s office."

___

AP writers Laurie Kellman in Washington, Marus Kabel in Springfield, Mo., and Michelle Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

24 Responses to "Page scandal heats up as key staff member resigns"

  1. Kerry  October 5, 2006 at 6:45 pm
  2. Dadblasted  October 5, 2006 at 7:06 pm
  3. Evanh  October 5, 2006 at 11:36 pm
  4. Deceived and disgraced by the GOP  October 4, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    Foley, Bush, Cheney,Rove, Rush, OReiley, etc are attempting to use Nixon’s PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY ROUTINE as a defense on this Foley scandal.

    Hold your nose and break out the fishing waders the Horse dung is going to get really, really deep. Scratch that I forgot we are already up to our eyeballs in it from the past 6 years of having decency and integrity restored to the Oval Office.

    “George W. Bush will repair what has been damaged. He’s a man without pretense, without cynicism, a man of principle, a man of honor. On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.”
    Dick Cheney August 2, 2000
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/election2000/gopconvention/sg_8-3.html

  5. Brother Tim  October 5, 2006 at 2:49 am

    I loved McCain’s quote, “I think it needs to be addressed by people who are credible.”

    Is he trying to say that he, or any of his fellow Republicans, are credible?????

    Methinks he was tortured too much in the Hanoi Hilton.

  6. Jim  October 5, 2006 at 4:20 am

    Allright!!! The GOP/Karl Rove strategy to handle this mess is coming forward…it’s a gay thing. Couric at struggling CBS led her ‘show’ with a story that the former gay congressman’s former chief of staff (who is gay) told other staff members in other congressmen’s office that are gay and that was why the whole thing was hushed up. Now Scarbourgh is running with it.

    It’s the gay GOP staffers fault!!!

    They got to be kidding.

  7. GlennK  October 5, 2006 at 4:27 am

    By weeks end Rove will have figured out a way to make it appear as Bill Clinton’s fault. Kind of like how Pat Robertson blamed “Liberals” for 9/11 in the hrs. after the attack. These are truly shameless hypocrites.

  8. Ted  October 5, 2006 at 4:36 am

    I agree with Brother Tim.

    Politicians recognizing a credible person would be like a pedophile recognizing the sanctity of innocent youth and seeking help for their criminal conduct on the honor system.

    Hardy harharhar!

  9. R. Ruffian  October 5, 2006 at 5:57 am

    Hastert needs to go immediately if not at light speed. Here is another danger for Republicans with this Foley scandal if it isn’t resolved quickly. Now that the doings of a known but now officially out of the closet Republican x-Congressman becomes widely known. The ugly side of the Republican majority in Congress will likely be exposed. The Religious Right voters will be unpleasantly surprised when they see the extent of the Velvet Mafia that runs the Republican Congress in the form of high level staff positions held by Gays. Also there are some more actual members who may be exposed or forced out of the closet. None of this bodes well for Religious voters who will find it difficult to be motivated when they see that the people who are to push such favorite issues as the sanctity of Marriage Amendment are in the hands of from their perspective “hypocrites and sodomites“.

  10. keith  October 5, 2006 at 7:00 am

    Has anyone else here noticed the deafening silence from the “family values” (spelled: “homophobe”) wing of the Republican Party?

    Meanwhile, it would appear the ”rats” are now madly deserting the “sinking ship”. And the latest news reports indicate there might even be further “revelations” of yet MORE sordid conduct from others in (or associated with) the US Congress before it’s all over.

    What a circus! However, I’m not sure the price of admission to watch all this is anywhere close to being worth what we are paying for it in taxes

  11. erika morgan  October 5, 2006 at 7:03 am

    anyone who voted for the Rs you got what you deserve but since you know better now for God’s sake vote better

  12. ebbtide  October 5, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    This really is a test for the GOP. The whole Family Values thing is not a party position if Hastert doesn’t resign.

    There can be no other reason for keeping Foley in place other than to protect the majority.

  13. Kerry  October 5, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    R. Ruffian, right now it’s not boding too well for us gays either, I’m wondering where in the hell the HRC is and why I’m not hearing/seeing them standing up against the gay bashing that seems to be going on. I did not see the news last night to see the lead in story. But enough with pandering to this guy’s “Poor Me, it’s was my upbringing!”
    Expose all of them. Laws can come and go, the next time a different party comes into office these can all be amended and will be back and forth forever, BUT these people did do something else much more hideous and continue to do so.
    And if Couric really did lead into her story with the friggin gay thing first, hell I can’t even find words for this…

  14. Dadblasted  October 5, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    Interesting how the media is focused on Foley and has given Condi Rice a pass on outright lying about early terrorism warnings in July 2001. The administration has shunted her off to the Middle East on a supposed fact finding mission. The Bushies wouldn’t know a fact except to lie about it, as Condi, Cheney, Frist, Limbaugh, Scarborough, O’Reilly, Fox News (Foley identified in the last as a Democrat no less), etc.

    Let’s get Condi and her lies back on the front page…or at least her faulty memory when testifying before Congress.

    Get the Dems back in, impeach the whole lot of them down to Frist, and get back to being a nation with an enforceable Consititution with a president who when he swears to uphold it actually does.

  15. Evanh  October 5, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    I am not a gay man, nor do I play one on TV. However, one of my best friends, and kindest people I have known, was.

    What disturbs me is the sudden association of the words “gay” and “pedophile.” My understanding is that the majority of pedophiles are heterosexual men. The last thing the gay community needs is to be labeled “pedophiles” because some political gays who happen to be pedophiles screw up (no pun intended).

    Notice there are no headline about the perp in recent Amish shooting being straight. Not newsworthy. But, boy, had he been gay – I shudder to imagine the headlines!

  16. Deceived and disgraced by the GOP  October 4, 2006 at 11:42 pm
  17. Brother Tim  October 5, 2006 at 2:49 am
  18. Jim  October 5, 2006 at 4:20 am
  19. GlennK  October 5, 2006 at 4:27 am
  20. Ted  October 5, 2006 at 4:36 am
  21. R. Ruffian  October 5, 2006 at 5:57 am
  22. keith  October 5, 2006 at 7:00 am
  23. erika morgan  October 5, 2006 at 7:03 am
  24. ebbtide  October 5, 2006 at 12:33 pm

Comments are closed.