Shortly after the ABC News story
hit, a Justice Department spokeswoman issued a statement that "Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department." Hastert demanded a retraction from ABC.
But these terms - investigation, subject, etc. - are terms of art. And an official denial doesn't mean very much. Brian Ross has since posted an update
saying that his sources, described as "federal law enforcement sources," are telling him that the DoJ's denial "was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal 'target' or 'subject' of the investigation." To be a target or subject is, of course, a very high threshold. Often a target letter will nearly coincide with an indictment, as was the case with Scooter Libby.
But let there be no doubt - Jack Abramoff has spilled the beans
Law enforcement sources told ABC News that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has provided information to the FBI about Hastert and a number of other members of Congress that have broadened the scope of the investigation. Sources would not divulge details of the Abramoffâs information....
"Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation," one federal official said tonight.