Federal authorities have interviewed at least two victims of sexual misconduct in the case against former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The longest-serving GOP speaker allegedly paid hush money to cover up sexual misconduct with one male student dating to his time as a coach and teacher in Yorkville, the source said.
The source said federal investigators identified, then interviewed, at least one other alleged victim in the case against Hastert. The second victim’s statements to investigators were critical to corroborating allegations of past sexual misconduct, the source said. There was no allegation of a financial relationship involving the second individual, the source said.
Hastert, 73, of Plano, was indicted Thursday on allegations he paid hush money to cover up misconduct against an unnamed individual referred to in court papers only as “Individual A.” The misconduct wasn’t specified in the indictment, only that it happened years ago and that the individual had known Hastert for most of the individual’s life.
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Hastert is charged with withdrawing money from bank accounts to pay the hush money in such a way as to avoid bank reporting requirements. He is also charged with later lying to FBI agents about what he was doing with the money. Hastert allegedly agreed to pay $3.5 million to cover up his misconduct, according to the indictment, and had paid about $1.7 million to the man.
“I think the amount of money is relevant here because it does show the misconduct had to be egregious enough in his mind to warrant millions of dollars — that is a lot of money,” said Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who is now managing director and Chicago office head at Kroll investigations. “The sheer dollar amount played into the motivation to stay secret.”
Hastert worked at Yorkville High School from 1965 to 1981. The school district issued a statement Friday saying it had no prior knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by Hastert.
At the White House, Spokesman Josh Earnest said that “I think I can speak pretty faithfully for everybody here at the White House that even though Speaker Hastert served as the speaker of the House in a — in the other party, that there’s nobody here who takes — who derives any pleasure from reading about the former speaker’s legal troubles at this point.”
Hastert served as U.S. House speaker until the Democratic takeover of the U.S. House engineered by then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel.
On Friday, before the news of the alleged sexual misconduct became public, Emanuel had only good things to say about his former political adversary.
“It’s interesting because I remember a time when we were down in Aurora when the president signed the highway bill in Denny Hastert’s old district,” Emanuel said.
“We served together in Congress and, while we had our differences about both policy and politics, he served his public, his constituents and he served the state of Illinois. And he did it with distinction. I am saddened by this news. Nobody wants to see a person’s career in public service have this as their capstone. “
Sen. Dick Durbin, during an unrelated news conference, said that the indictment “stunned” him as well.
“I was stunned when I heard the news. I know him. I’ve worked with him . . . I knew him for many, many years . . . I have not heard his explanation yet and of course I want to, but I’m still shaking my head at the thought that he might be engaged in this sort of activity.”Durbin said he has not reached out to Hastert but said his indictment does add to a sense of mistrust of elected officials, especially in Illinois.
“Let’s be realistic. This takes a toll on public confidence in elected officials across the board, both Democrats and Republicans,” Durbin said. “And even though I believe the vast majority of my colleagues in both parties are honest people, working hard to serve the public, the continued investigations and indictments and incarcerations of elected officials has got to take its toll on the public confidence of elected officials.”Sen. Mark Kirk issued a statement, saying: “Anyone who knows Denny is shocked and confused by the recent news. The former speaker should be afforded, like any other American, his day in court to address these very serious accusations. This is a very troubling development that we must learn more about, but I am thinking of his family during this difficult time.”Contributing: Fran Spielman, Lynn Sweet, Tina Sfondeles