WASHINGTON – Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was not the subject of a “flat-out shakedown” when he agreed to pay $3.5 million to a man who claimed Hastert sexually molested him decades ago, NBC News is reporting.
Instead, Hastert — indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Chicago — voluntarily entered into a mutual agreement with the man to keep the sexual misconduct accusation secret, NBC News Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported.
Hastert is charged with lying to FBI agents when he was interviewed about $1.7 million in cash he withdrew from several banks over a period of four-and-a half years, and with circumventing federal banking rules that require cash transactions of more than $10,000 to be reported.
While the indictment states Hastert paid the money to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct,” against an person called “Individual A,” explicit sexual misconduct claims are not mentioned.
An obvious question prompted by the indictment is whether “Individual A” blackmailed or extorted Hastert to get him to promise a total of $3.5 million.
The hush money was to keep secret misconduct that occurred when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, years before the Illinois Republican was in Congress.
Williams reported on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Hastert was not being extorted or blackmailed by “Individual A,” who has not been publicly identified.
And that’s the reason that “Individual A,” a Yorkville resident, is not being charged with any crime.
“So the other thing is the federal government says they’re not charging “Individual A, which we believe to have been a former student, with extortion for two reasons,” Williams said.
“One is you have to have a victim, and Mr. Hastert has never claimed that he was extorted. And secondly, the federal officials I’ve talked to say that they’re satisfied that this was, in essence, a sort of cooperative agreement that they had, that there was an element of agreement here, not just flat-out shakedown,” he said.
The former Speaker, who has homes in Plano and Wisconsin, has not been spotted in public since the indictment.
He also has not yet appeared before a federal magistrate. Williams said, “Obviously, there’s a lot of agreement that’s gone on here between his lawyers and the prosecutors.”
Federal court documents do not identify who is representing Hastert.
Hastert’s friends and associates are still stunned by the accusations. Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said on “Meet the Press” that Hastert “was a pillar of integrity. He was the guidepost, I think, for us.”