Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foley Scandal Erodes Support for Hastert

WASHINGTON (Oct. 5) - Speaker Dennis Hastert's job is on the line as members of the House ethics committee decide how to launch a credible investigation of former Rep. Mark Foley's salacious computer messages to teenage pages.
An extraordinary political spectacle surrounded the committee's first scheduled meeting Thursday. Republicans publicly blamed Hastert for failing to take action after he was warned about the messages, and a former Foley aide said he told Republican leaders about the Florida congressman's conduct years earlier than they have acknowledged.

With Republicans concerned about maintaining their congressional majority in the Nov. 7 elections, political support for Hastert was ebbing. Republican officials said at least a few disgruntled members of the GOP rank and file had discussed whether to call on the speaker to step aside. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

Hastert told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday night that he has no thoughts of resigning. He blamed ABC News, which broke the Foley e-mail story, and Democratic operatives for the mushrooming scandal.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, ordered House officials to preserve all records related to Foley's electronic correspondence with teenagers. The request for record preservation is often followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.


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