If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.
Many former wrestlers and Yorkville-area residents who spoke to The Associated Press since the indictment on Thursday spoke only warmly of Hastert, some athletes saying Hastert was a father figure as he guided them to championships. They couldn’t recall anything suspicious about the trips, including ones to the Bahamas and Canada. And none had a clue about who could have made such accusations against the coach…
Evans said there was never a hint of wrongdoing and that he was angry that someone would accuse Hastert without coming forward publicly…
Evans, Hastert’s fellow coach, recalled one trip where he, Hastert and a Japanese exchange student shared a tent.
“The only thing he did was snore like a gorilla,” he said of Hastert. “We were always all together. There was no sneaking around from tent to tent.”
It is hard to emphasize how big of a deal Hastert is in Yorkville. People who knew him here told BuzzFeed News he was “motivational,” “a positive influence,” “a wonderful man,” and “the foundation of many families.”
In their telling, the coach was an almost mythological figure: Yorkville’s own Cincinnatus, a farmer gone to Washington to bring a dose of simple virtue to a city corrupted by money and deceit…
Anthony Houle, who was an assistant coach with Hastert, called him “a straight arrow — nothing was hidden.” He added that “nothing ever happened”; if it did, the people in the small town would have found out.
Some acknowledged that the allegations had made them rethink their image of Hastert.
Hastert became Speaker because Newt Gingrich had just crashed and burned, and because the next in line, Bob Livingston, worried that, in the wake of Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky-related impeachment, his own extramarital affairs would come out. Hastert lost the job when he mishandled the scandal that erupted when Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was discovered to have sent sexual messages to teen-age male congressional pages. Hastert’s clumsiness on that count, and his failure to protect the pages, seems easier to explain now. And his many protestations that he might not be worthy of the Speaker’s job—he told reporters that he took it only after praying on it—look less like humility, if they ever did…
There may be a tendency to wonder, when considering a story like Hastert’s, if this is what happens when people have to bury who they are. Homophobia has painfully contracted countless lives. But that diagnosis seems somewhat off here: Individual A was a high-school student, and so almost certainly a minor, and Hastert was a coach. There is something different about that, even before one gets to, say, Hastert’s drive for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, or his work to pass the privacy-invading Patriot Act—though those are worth mentioning, too…
Jonathan Franzen, in a Profile of Hastert for The New Yorker in 2003, wrote, “When I asked him how he felt about the impeachment of Bill Clinton, four and a half years after, he described Clinton’s loss of credibility as ‘a personal tragedy.’ Later, I asked him about Watergate and Richard Nixon. ‘A tragedy,’ he said. The legal woes of Illinois Governor George Ryan? ‘A tragedy.’” Maybe Hastert sees his own case that way. But whose tragedy is it? The larger problem comes when Washington is so full of tragedies that it begins to look like one great farce.
Hastert’s ability to participate in the blackmail is, after all, itself a general indictment of D.C.’s “revolving door” money culture, in which former lawmakers move easily from government into lobbying. In Hastert’s case, the ability to profit off of one’s legislative position is especially galling: While in office, Hastert used the earmarking process to turn his investment in some Illinois farmland into a profit of 140 percent when a federal highway project just happened to make its way through those very fields. Indeed, it was this instance of a completely legal form of insider trading that helped prompt Congress to end earmarks.
And, of course, Hastert made even more money once he was out of office. One study found that, on average—and when the information is publicly available—former lawmakers get a 1,425 percent raise when they make the jump from Capitol Hill to K Street. Hastert, who was worth between $4 million and $17 million when he left Congress, was making $175,000 as a representative. His K Street bump would be to almost $2.5 million a year…
To consider $3.5 million a reasonable sum to spend on protecting one’s reputation, presumably it has to be worth a lot more than that. And, indeed, in the context of the lobbying world, $3.5 million just isn’t that much money. Especially considering that Hastert was apparently making pay-offs over time. Special interest groups spent almost 1000 times that—$3.2 billion—in 2015 alone. If Hastert viewed protecting his reputation as a kind of investment in future earnings, $3.5 million is on the scale of buying an alarm system for your home, not buying a whole other house.
Dennis Hastert is a Republican boss of the infamous Illinois Combine that has run this politically corrupt state.
As such, Hastert even tried to influence the selection of federal prosecutors and prevent politically independent outsiders from wielding federal subpoena power…
Yet though his mouthpieces and spinners, he’s presented as an “aw shucks,” down-to-earth high school wrestling coach, a guy who likes to work on his own cars.
He was installed in Congress for one thing: To deliver. And he delivered.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, Hastert was neither been seen or heard from publicly on Friday, but he has told close friends that he was sorry people had to go though this ordeal.
“I am a victim, too,” Hastert told them.
There’s something very worrisome about the government secrecy here — particularly in conjunction with the criminal prosecution on the morally mild charge of withdrawal structuring. I’d sum up the secrecy problem this way: Either Hastert did something terrible, in which case the government shouldn’t be suppressing it, or Hastert was being unjustifiably blackmailed, in which case the government shouldn’t be prosecuting him for breaking the withdrawal laws to avoid ruin…
Since the prosecution of Al Capone, it’s been common for the government to prosecute an offender for a relatively minor crime if it can’t get a conviction for a major one. There are plenty of reasons the government might not to be able to prosecute Hastert for the original misconduct: The crime would’ve been local, not federal; the statute of limitations might have passed; and above all, the accuser might not seem credible given his or her extraction of $3.5 million from Hastert.
But by maintaining secrecy around the nature of the accuser and the allegations, the government’s making it impossible for the public to know if in fact the government is going after Hastert because he’s guilty of something that they can’t otherwise prove.
“This case just smells,” Dershowitz said. “I’m shocked that a prosecutor would allow this kind of case to be brought knowing that it will reveal the secrets, that it would open doors up to things that are alleged or have occurred almost half a century ago. … This is not a case that should’ve been brought in federal court.”
Dershowitz noted the federal “structuring statutes” Hastert is accused of breaking “were intended to prevent money laundering, to prevent drug dealing, to prevent income tax evasion. ”
“Paying hush money is not illegal,” Dershowitz said. “He didn’t want anybody to know about it, so he took money out in small amounts and the banks wouldn’t report it. That is not within the heartland of what this statute was intended to cover – and then to have an indictment which essentially reveals that which Hastert was trying to conceal puts the government in the position of essentially being part of the blackmail – and it’s just not right.”
Dershowitz called the case “an abusive prosecutorial discretion” for using the structuring statute “to try to go after somebody who was trying to solve a rather personal problem….”
The fundamental problem in the Hastert case is simple: what, exactly, is the crime? As presented, the crime consists of a series of structured withdrawals supposedly designed to avoid a reporting duty, about which Hastert misled federal agents when they questioned him. This is not only extraordinarily thin gruel, it is also ripe for abuse. Keep in mind that the prostitution scandal that was manipulated by a Bush-era prosecutor to end the career of Eliot Spitzer was also triggered by similar bank payment reports.
Having bank reporting requirement makes good sense—it makes life tough for drug dealers and money launderers. They can be charged for drug dealing and money laundering. But to make a violation of the reporting requirement itself the crime that is charged? That’s a stretch. Moreover, it points to just the sort of prosecution against which we should be on guard. America’s greatest modern prosecutor, Robert Jackson, reminded prosecutors that they should always be investigating crimes and not people. The latter may be common, but it is inherently an abuse of prosecutorial power. But so far this case looks disturbingly like the search for a crime in the pursuit of Denny Hastert.
To be very clear, the feds were not tracking Hastert’s withdrawals in order to unearth alleged sexual misconduct. They were following Hastert’s banking activities because a federal government that seemingly knows no limits once again requires banks to report outflows greater than $10,000. That’s very bothersome.
It’s bothersome because in the U.S. our constitutionally limited federal government solely exists to protect our individual rights, not to expand its power over us, or worse, spy on us. So the very idea of the feds sifting through the bank withdrawals of U.S. citizens speaks to obnoxious overreach.
Some will understandably respond that politicians in and out of office are particularly loathsome individuals who need greater oversight, it’s possible yet again that Hastert was offering big sums to hide something truly horrid, but for now that misses the point. A federal government in possession of the kind of power that allows it to track bank withdrawals can just as easily use information gleaned to harm non-politicians, and in particular individuals eager to expose the shortcomings of government itself. A government possessing the power to snoop can use the information not just to occasionally corral illegality, but also to expose perfectly legal acts that private individuals would like to keep private. If government retains for itself the right to know what we do with our money, then it’s surely true that we’re all potential victims of the ‘angels’ inside government who can use its force against those seen as problematic.
And then the story will become: How could those around Hastert for eight years not have known? What 2016 Republican candidate hasn’t got an embarrassing photo of himself with Denny? Yeah, they’re stiff and awkward in Congressional offices, not like Bill and Jeffrey Epstein on the Lolita Express, in Bermuda shorts with a couple of margaritas and nymphettes on their knees. But still… Rick Santorum was in the Senate when Hastert was Speaker of the House: What did he know and when did he know it? Rand Paul’s father served with Hastert in the House: Did Ron get Rand in on the cover-up? Ben Carson separated Siamese twins: Siam is in South-East Asia, where Hastert went on all those “fact-finding” visits…
1998 was, for Clinton, the Year of Monica. For the GOP, it was the Year of Three Speakers. After the blue dress and “I did not have sexual relations” and all the rest, Bill managed, in defiance of tradition, to gain seats in the 1998 midterms – and humiliated Newt, who quit immediately after. He was replaced by Bob Livingston, who self-detonated 20 minutes later and confessed live on the House floor to his own extra-marital affair before falling on his sword. Eschewing more provocative figures such as Tom DeLay or Dick Armey, Republicans turned to Denny Hastert for a quiet life.
So now all three Republican House Speakers from the Impeachment Era have been destroyed. And Slick Willie will be able to say that he was impeached for having consensual relations with a 21-year-old woman by a House led by a guy who had non-consensual relations with underage boys. That would be Impeachment Redemption at a most convenient time. When’s the trial scheduled for? September 2016?
If that’s where we’re headed, it would be too much to expect the Democrat-media complex to forgo the pleasure of making the third most powerful Republican of the century the poster boy for his party.