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Foley scandal: Hastert ``I AM DEEPLY SORRY THIS HAPPENED.'' House ethics panel issues four dozen subpoenas.

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Moving to deal with the Mark Foley cyberspace sex scandal, outside his office in Batavia, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said ``I deeply sorry that this happened'' and said he was taking ultimate responsibility.

He said he was looking for a person of ``high caliber'' to take a look at the page system. A name floated this morning among Republicans that Hastert would tap former FBI director Louis Freeh to lead this effort--did not materialize as of the press conference time.

(Click below for full Hastert statement)

As to his own knowledge of events, ``I don't know who knew what when,'' Hastert said.

He said if the GOP retains the House in November, ``I expect to run for Speaker'' in the new Congress.

Earlier this morning, Hastert, in a statement, announced the creation of an 1-800 page tip line for people to report on the pages or the page program (click below for number and full Hastert statement.)

In Washington, the bi-partisan Ethics panel--long dormant--met this morning and decided to issue up to four dozen subpoenas to get to the bottom of the Foley scandal.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.)--named by Hastert to the panel--and the other members said they will let the evidence lead where it may.

Said Biggert: The panel is determined to get to the bottom of ``who knew what, who did it and why.''

Moments after the ethics panel press conference on Capitol Hill was completed, the speakers office issued a press release commending the committee for acting promptly. (click for full statement)

There are now three probes, Hastert said.
*House ethics panel
* Justice Department
*State of Florida probe.

The House panel-which usually works in secret--voted unanimously to launch the probe. The Justice Department already has an investigation in the works.

Ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said they hoped to wrap up the investigation in ``weeks,'' not months.''

Chairman Rep. ``Doc'' Hastings said is was ``very important'' to the institution of the House to complete the probe as soon as possible.

This means the panel may complete its work before the November election.

Biggert said the members engage in a ``peer review'' and they have to be impartial, like a judge.
The evidence will lead us to find the facts as they stand and take action as needed.''

===============================================
releases from the speaker's office....

Speaker Hastert's Comments from

Today's Media Availability

(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today
issued the following statement at a media availability he held at his
district office in Batavia, IL.

"The bottom line is I am taking responsibility for it because ultimately the
buck stops here. I'm sorry that this happened. For something like this to
occur, our system obviously isn't designed for the electronic age of Instant
Messages.

"When Republicans found out about the explicit messages, Republicans dealt
with it immediately, and he is gone.

"We are now trying to correct the problem. We asked the Ethics Committee to
look into this matter and we asked for criminal investigations to be opened
by the Justice Department and by the state of Florida.

"We have a toll free number where people can confidentially call, and we
have reached out to experts around the country to put a system in place to
make sure this never happens again. The tip line is 1-866-348-0481.

"We will do everything possible to make the program safe for the kids while
they are in our care in Washington, DC and to make sure we can be a resource
for their parents once they return home. We are looking for a person of
high caliber to advise us on the Page Program. I reached out to the
Democrat Leader and shared with her some ideas and we hope to resolve this
soon.

"Our children need to be protected, and we're going to do everything we can
to protect them."

Speaker Hastert Announces Page Program Tip Line Number

(Washington, D.C.) House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert today announced the
official Page tip line number. Following is his statement:

"As the Speaker I take responsibility for everything in the building. The
buck stops here. The safety and security of the students in the Page
program is imperative.

"That is why I directed the Clerk of the House to establish a hotline for
reporting any information concerning Pages or the Page program. As of this
morning, the Clerk of the House has activated the tip-line. It is for
anyone with information regarding the Foley matter. This number can also be
used to report any other concerns regarding the Page program.

"The Page program tip line is 866-348-0481."

The greeting for the tip line is as follows:

"Thank you for calling the tip line for the United States House of
Representatives. If you have information regarding former Congressman Mark
Foley and his contacts or communications with any current or former House
Pages, or any other information or concern about the House Page program,
please leave your information at the tone. Please speak slowly and clearly,
and please spell out any names to which you refer. You are encouraged, but
not required, to leave your name and contact information. You should be
aware of any information you provide may be referred to federal and state
law enforcement authorities and/or to House investigative authorities.
Thank you for your call."

==========================

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Speaker Hastert Comments on Ethics Committee Announcement

(Washington, D.C.) House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert today made the following
statement regarding the announcement by the House Ethics Committee:

"The Committee should be commended for moving promptly with an
investigation. I have directed my longtime counsel, Randy Evans of McKenna,
Long, and Aldridge, to cooperate with the Committee in getting to the bottom
of this.

"The Committee is moving forward to get control of this situation and find
answers to provide all of us peace of mind.

"Any person who is found guilty of improper conduct involving sexual contact
or communication with a page should immediately resign, be fired, or be
subjected to a vote of expulsion.

"As I have said, anyone who had knowledge of the vile instant messages
should have turned them over immediately so that our House Pages could be
protected. Someone did have those messages. There are reports that a
Congressional aide was a source. The Committee should help find out who had
the messages and why they were not turned over sooner.

"In addition, I, along with my colleagues, have asked the Committee to
consider and recommend specific rules governing communications and contacts
between Members and House Pages.

"I look forward to their findings and recommendations. I'm pleased the
Committee is showing the commitment to get this job done."


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 5, 2006 1:04 PM.

Sweet Column: Even if GOP retains House, Foley flap may cost Hastert speaker job. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet Column: Hastert's Batavia Apology. ``Buck Stops Here.'' is the next entry in this blog.

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