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At a press conference this morning, Hastert began to qualify his defense of how his office handled Mark Foley's indiscretions, as new details have emerged that cast his earlier versions of events in doubt.

"I don’t think anybody in my office at any time did anything wrong," Hastert said -- hardly a ringing endorsement. However, “if anybody is found to have hidden information or covered up information, they really should be gone,” he told reporters. Hastert did not indicate he was undertaking any particular effort on his part to find out who on his staff misled him.

As we noted yesterday, Hastert's chief of staff knew about Foley's problem back in 2003, according to two congressional staffers -- one of them Foley's former chief of staff.

Asked about Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R-AZ) recent revelation that he'd confronted Foley over suggestive messages sent to a former page, Hastert implied -- but did not explicitly state -- that Kolbe had never brought the problem to the Speaker's office. "If it was something that was of a nature that should have been reported or brought forward, then he should have done that," he said.

Update: Here's the AP's write-up.

The Foley scandal has caused a rash of scheduling conflicts, it appears. The two figures most tainted by the scandal, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), had been scheduled to come campaign for Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA), who's been having a tough campaign this year, in part because he allegedly tried to strangle his ex-mistress (he's admitted the affair, denied the strangling).

Things just didn't work out. But it has nothing to do with Foley. Not for Hastert:

Jake O'Donnell, a spokesman for Sherwood, said Monday that an Oct. 18 event with Hastert was only tentatively scheduled and was canceled mostly because Sherwood had another major event the next day.

And not for Reynolds:

"When asked why the Reynolds appearance was canceled, [O'Donnell] said, 'It is mostly about the travel schedule, but there is that other issue.'

Wait. "That other issue?" Now I'm confused. Reynolds' spokesman clears things up:

NRCC spokesman Ed Patru said Reynolds had events in his own district that led him to drop out of the Sherwood fundraiser.

"Mr. O'Donnell is not in a position to know why the event was canceled," Patru said. "He was clearly out of the loop on this one."

So there. Nothing to do with Foley.

Ex-Page Aired Concerns About Foley to Congressman in 2000 "A former Congressional page approached Representative Jim Kolbe, Republican of Arizona, as long as six years ago to report feeling uncomfortable by messages sent from Representative Mark Foley [as was reported yesterday in The Washington Post], but a spokeswoman for Mr. Kolbe said Monday that it was unclear if Mr. Kolbe had forwarded the complaint to House leaders.

"Mr. Kolbe, a former member of the board that oversees the House page program, remembers talking to a page with concerns about Mr. Foley’s conduct, said Korenna Cline, Mr. Kolbe’s press secretary. But Mr. Kolbe could not remember whether he confronted Mr. Foley directly, Ms. Cline said, or delegated the matter to his staff.

"Reached by telephone on Monday while he was traveling in Europe, Mr. Kolbe declined to answer questions about the page’s complaint or Mr. Foley’s case. In a brief conversation, he said: 'We’ll have a statement on that. We’ll have a statement on that.'" (NY Times)

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Denny Hastert and others in the Republican leadership say that they never heard a thing about Mark Foley's indiscretions with House pages before the fall of 2005. That's their story and they're sticking to it.

But a trickle of stories over the past few days have made that account even harder to believe. Since all the details can get confusing, below is a narrative of warnings and interventions before the leadership says it knew about Foley's problem.

As early as 1997, Foley began sending sexually explicit messages to a page; other pages have come forward from the 1998, 2000, and 2002 classes saying that they also received explicit messages.

The first reported intervention with Foley came in 2000 from Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), who had a private meeting with him after a page alerted Kolbe that Foley had sent him inappropriate messages. A source, who had copies of the offending instant messages and showed them to The Washington Post, said they were "sexually explicit"; Kolbe's office denied that and said the messages only made the page "uncomfortable." Kolbe's spokeswoman told the Post that she "could not yet determine" whether Kolbe had notified anyone else (i.e. the Republican leadership) about Foley's problem.

As early as 2001, the Clerk of the House, Jeff Trandahl, notified Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, that Foley's behavior with the pages was a problem. Over the course of the next couple years, Trandahl notified Fordham "several times," that Foley had a problem.

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The Jack Abramoff scandal will be with us for at least a year to come, perhaps longer. Just two weeks ago, the House Government Reform Committee issued a blockbuster report revealing hundreds of contacts between Abramoff's team and the White House that resulted in the resignation last Friday of Karl Rove's assistant Susan Ralston.

The trail doesn't stop there, of course. So we sat down with National Journal's Peter Stone, the author of the forthcoming book Heist: Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, His Republican Allies, And the Buying of Washington, who told us about how Abramoff operated, how the investigation is progressing, and what to expect next.

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Should Denny Hastert resign or not? Here's one conservative's view on the matter, courtesy of Robert Novak's column today:

"It's really moot," one of Hastert's most severe Republican critics (who would not be identified) told me. "We are sure to lose the House, and Denny never would want to be minority leader." With Hastert's last performance as speaker coming in a predictably do-nothing lame-duck session after the Nov. 7 election, the month of October will be challenging for him and his party as he decides what to do with plans to campaign for challenged House candidates.

Via The Stakeholder.

Ethics Committee Starts Interviews in Foley Inquiry "Moving with unusual speed, the House Ethics Committee began interviews in its probe of the Mark Foley scandal, an investigation that will test both the Republican leadership and the panel itself.

"The inquiry will involve questioning of top House Republicans, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, and senior aides with decades of experience on Capitol Hill and their own relations with party leaders as well as members of the ethics panel." (WSJ)

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And Foleygate storms into week three.

From The Washington Post:

A Republican congressman knew of disgraced former representative Mark Foley's inappropriate Internet exchanges as far back as 2000 and personally confronted Foley about his communications.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) confirmed yesterday that a former page showed the congressman Internet messages that had made the youth feel uncomfortable with the direction Foley (R-Fla.) was taking their e-mail relationship...

The revelation pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has acknowledged learning of Foley's behavior with former pages....

A source with direct knowledge of Kolbe's involvement said the messages shared with Kolbe were sexually explicit, and he read the contents to The Washington Post under the condition that they not be reprinted. But Cline denied the source's characterization, saying only that the messages had made the former page feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she said, "corrective action" was taken. Cline said she has not yet determined whether that action went beyond Kolbe's confrontation with Foley.

From Louisville, Ky.'s WHAS-11 News. The story's dated last Thursday, but I don't think we've mentioned this one yet:

According to Congressman Ron Lewis, the former page is now a soldier in Iraq. But five years ago, he was a teenage page in the U.S. House who was the subject of some kind of questionable contact from Congressman Mark Foley.

Lewis’s chief of staff got a satellite phone call from Iraq Tuesday afternoon from a man who wouldn't identify himself. But he did say he was a soldier from Kentucky’s Second Congressional District who wanted to give Lewis a heads up.

“To let us know that he had been approached by Mark Foley in 2001 and that he is speaking to the proper authorities, to a JAG officer who will then pass that on to the FBI,” says Lewis.

Congressman Lewis’s office is the only local one we've found that's gotten a call from any of their former pages, alleging misconduct by Foley, a man Lewis describes this way: “He was a creepy guy.”

According to the story, Lewis' office got the call from the former page on Oct. 2. The next day, the congressman cancelled his Oct. 10 fundraiser with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

Follow-ups to this story have noted that the FBI has since spoken with the ex-page who contacted Lewis.

Lewis hasn't yet called for Hastert's ouster, but WHAS says he's pointedly not ruling out the possibility he might do so in the future.

In a long, detailed piece on the Foley scandal, Newsweek gives the most detailed account yet of Kirk Fordham's early warning to Speaker Hastert's chief of staff about Foley's interest in the House pages.

According to Newsweek, Fordham, then Foley's chief of staff, approached Scott Palmer after Foley's now-infamous drunken visit to the House page dorm. But most significantly, Fordham says that after the meeting, Palmer told him that he'd "informed the Speaker" about the problem -- and this was "sometime in 2002 or 2003."

From Newsweek:

As early as in 2001, Fordham had received disturbing reports of Foley's "inappropriate" behavior toward the congressional pages. According to a knowledgeable source familiar with Fordham's account, who did not wish to be identified discussing such a sensitive matter, Fordham is prepared to tell investigators that he was warned "on two or three occasions" about Foley's "overly friendly" socializing with young male pages.

He was informed by Jeff Trandahl, then the Clerk of the House, who oversees the page program. On one occasion, sometime in 2002 or 2003, Trandahl told Fordham about Foley's nocturnal adventure to the pages' dorm. Trandahl told Fordham that Foley "appeared intoxicated," according to the source who provided Fordham's account to NEWSWEEK.

This incident prompted Fordham to go to Scott Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, and tell him about Foley's behavior. Fordham called Palmer and told him that he wanted to speak with him privately, the source says. The two men met in a small office on Capitol Hill. (Palmer says the meeting never took place.)

Fordham did not tell Palmer about Foley's attempt to enter the pages' dormitory, but rather that he was generally concerned about his boss's excessive friendliness to the pages, according to the source. Palmer expressed surprise and concern, the source says, and wondered what this could mean to Foley's political future. Why would he endanger his career with such conduct?

Palmer assured Fordham that he would talk to Foley. A day or two later, Fordham called Palmer to ask what happened. Palmer told him that he "dealt with it" by talking to Foley and that he "informed the Speaker," according to the source familiar with Fordham's account. Months later Fordham had an awkward conversation with Foley in which his boss indicated that he had spoken to Palmer.