Hastert was informed
The former clerk of the House of Reps., Jeff Trandahl, who testified for more than four hours before the House Ethics Committee today, is believed to have testified that a top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert was informed of "all issues dealing with the page program," according to a Republican familiar with the investigation. (Rest of text below fold)
Hastert Meets With Ethics Panel:Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his attorneys are currently meeting with the House ethics panel investigating the page scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.)
Palmer Appears Before Ethics Panel
Monday, Oct. 23; 2:46 pm
Scott Palmer, chief of staff to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and a critical player in the Congressional page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), is being interviewed by the House ethics committee this afternoon.
Palmer, who has denied being warned by Foley’s former top aide, Kirk Fordham, and Jeff Trandahl, the former Clerk of the House, about concerns regarding Foley’s interactions with Congressional pages, entered the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct office at 2 p.m., accompanied by his attorney.
There is no information yet on when Hastert or his other senior aides will testify. Sally Vastola, executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a longtime staffer for Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), appeared before the panel earlier today.
Who is Scott Palmer?
Palmer, 1999 with a less obese Fatty Hastert.
Photo:Tom Williams/Roll Call
Scott Palmer, chief of staff for Speaker Dennis Hastert, makes his way through the Capitol with his attorney, Scott Fredericksen.
Palmer, Vastola Tell Their Sides
October 24, 2006
Text below fold....
The Republican source said Trandahl planned to name Ted Van Der Meid, the speaker's counsel and floor manager, as the person who was briefed on a regular basis about any issue that arose in the page program, including a "problem group of members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages outside of official duties." One of whom was Mark Foley.
Trandahl's testimony before the House Ethics Committee could provide additional evidence that key members of the speaker's staff were aware of problems involving the page program for years.
Van Der Meid declined to comment to ABC News, but a source close to Van Der Meid says he expects to be called to testify before the House Ethics Committee next week and plans to answer all questions.
Last week, Foley's former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, testified before the Ethics Committee about his public allegations that the speaker's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, was told about problems with Foley at least three years ago.
Palmer has said that Fordham's version of events "never happened."
Trandahl was known as a strict and protective overseer of the page program. He was mentioned in one instant message exchange obtained by ABC News that occurred between a former page and Foley in early 2003, when the teen was planning a trip to Washington to visit with other former pages.
The four-member House ethics subcommittee looking into the activities of former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) heard testimony on Monday from Scott Palmer, chief of staff to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and Sally Vastola, a top aide to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), even as the panel is scheduled to hear from Reynolds himself today.
Vastola, executive director of the NRCC, declined to comment following her three hours of testimony. She was accompanied by counsel, Robert Kelner of Covington & Burling, a specialist in election and political law.
At press time, Palmer was still being questioned by the committee after more than three hours of testimony. He made no comment to reporters as he entered the committee room and was accompanied by his attorney, Scott Fredericksen of Foley & Lardner LLP.
Reynolds is set to appear today and it is anticipated that two additional senior aides to Hastert will also appear this week, but Hastert’s office has declined to announce the schedule. Mike Stokke, deputy chief of staff, and Ted Van Der Meid, staff counsel, are expected to provide key testimony in the investigation.
Two weeks out from Election Day, the timing of the investigation potentially is seen as most politically damaging for Reynolds, who is facing a tougher-than-expected re-election bid against Democratic candidate Jack Davis, who also tried to unseat Reynolds in 2004. Davis has now sought to make the Foley scandal a central point in the campaign, and Reynolds was forced to go on the air with a TV ad apologizing for the handling of the Foley incident.
Immediately following the Foley revelation, numerous polls showed Reynolds down in his district by as many as 15 points, but recent polls indicated that Reynolds has rebounded and is running closer to a statistical dead heat with Davis. The Republican National Committee has also directed funds to his district to bolster his re-election effort.
Reynolds’ public statements have often been at odds with those of Hastert since Foley resigned on Sept. 29. Reynolds said he discussed the initial e-mail exchange with Hastert earlier this year, but Hastert maintains he does not recall such a conversation. That particular e-mail exchange was characterized only as “over-friendly” and was unrelated to a series of sexually explicit online communications that were first revealed last month. It did, however, prompt enough concern to cause officials to ask Foley to cease communication with the former page, at the request of the teenager’s parents. The page was sponsored by Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), whose office first brought the e-mails to the attention of senior Hastert aides.
It also was reported shortly after the story broke that tensions were high between the Hastert and Reynolds camps as leadership offices sought to coordinate a timeline of events and a unified message on the Foley matter.
That effort was not particularly successful as Reynolds and Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) continued to offer conflicting accounts, as did Kirk Fordham, a now-resigned former top aide to Reynolds. Fordham testified before the ethics panel last week and stated publicly that he informed Palmer as early as 2003 of potentially inappropriate behavior from Foley toward male pages. Palmer denied the account in a online statement and has made no further public comments.
It is unclear if Hastert will be questioned by the ethics committee. Spokesman Ron Bonjean said the Speaker attended a fundraiser for Tennessee Republican David Davis, who is challenging Rep. Bart Gordon (D), on Monday, but said his schedule for the remainder of the week was not available.