Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boehner Testifies in Foley Case

Boehner has gotten his story straight enough to take it before the House panel investigating the "Pagegate" matter.

House Majority Leader John Boehner testified before the House ethics committee Thursday, indicating afterward that he repeated his statements that he had told Speaker Dennis Hastert of Rep. Mark Foley's overly friendly e-mails to a former male page.

Boehner, R-Ohio, would not say what he specifically told the committee behind closed doors, but has publicly quoted Hastert as telling him the complaint "had been taken care of."

Also, the committee heard another important witness today:

(Former clerk of the House) Jeff Trandahl did not answer reporters' questions as he left the panel's offices after several hours of testimony. His appearance was central to the case, though, since he shouldered day-to-day responsibility for the page program and had confronted Foley last fall about inappropriate e-mails.

"Jeff Trandahl has cooperated fully with the investigation being conducted by the FBI and the ... Committee on Standards. He answered every question asked of him, and stands ready to render additional assistance if needed," Trandahl's attorney, Como Namorato, said in a statement.

Namorato said that Trandahl would not comment while the investigation in ongoing.

At issue in the ethics committee investigation is how the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., dealt with the knowledge that Foley, a Florida Republican, was sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage congressional pages. The answers could affect not just Hastert but the prospects for control of the House when voters cast ballots in the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

In an internal report released by Hastert, his aides contend that they first learned about Foley's conduct in the fall of 2005, when they became aware of overly friendly e-mails to a former Louisiana page. However, Foley's former top aide said he told Hastert's chief of staff about Foley's conduct in 2002 or 2003.

With polls showing the Foley scandal could hurt Republicans in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Trandahl's testimony could be damaging if he contradicts Hastert's account and says Republican leaders lacked the urgency required to protect the teenage pages. Hastert has fended off calls for his resignation and said he believes he and his staff acted properly.

Trandahl was the official who likely would have known about any problems involving the page program, including improper conduct by pages or improper approaches from lawmakers or House employees. He supervised the program and was on its controlling group, the House Page Board, which consists of three lawmakers, the House clerk and the sergeant at arms.

There are rumors that another Republican congressman (from a midwest state) will be falling on his sword soon over improper conduct with a (female) page.

Stay tuned.

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