- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert yesterday requested a criminal investigation of former Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, who resigned Friday amid accusations that he attempted to seduce a teenage congressional page.

An FBI spokesman last night confirmed the bureau was “conducting an assessment” of the Foley case.

“I hereby request that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation of Mr. Foley’s conduct with current and former House pages to determine to what extent any of his actions violated federal law,” Mr. Hastert wrote in the letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, sent after similar calls yesterday from the nation’s two leading Democrats and the White House.

Mr. Hastert also requested an investigation into whether anyone had “specific knowledge” of the sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any current or former House pages.

“I request that the scope of your investigation include any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter — be they members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives, or anyone outside the Congress,” Mr. Hastert wrote.

Mr. Hastert also wrote to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to ask for a state investigation “to determine to what extent any of [Mr. Foley’s] actions violated Florida law.”

Meanwhile, yesterday, Republican leaders said they expect state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart, Fla., to be named to replace Mr. Foley as the Republican candidate in the House race for the 16th Congressional District when the state party’s 37-member executive board meets today in Orlando.

Mr. Foley, Florida Republican, was chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children before resigning Friday after he was accused of sending inappropriate e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages over the Internet to teenage boys working as congressional pages.

Democrats have harshly criticized Republican leadership in the wake of last week’s revelations.

“The children, their parents, the public, and our colleagues must be assured that such abhorrent behavior is not tolerated and will never happen again,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, wrote yesterday to leaders of the House ethics committee, reiterating that the panel must start work “within 10 days.”

“The American people have a right to feel confident that their congressional leaders are committed not just to the best interest of the nation as a whole, but also to the safety of the young people who every year travel to Washington to work on Capitol Hill,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett, appearing yesterday on ABC’s “This Week,” said President Bush was not aware of the accusations until Mr. Foley resigned and defended the response of the House Republican leadership.

Other Democrats, including Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, who has said he would run for majority leader if Democrats win control of the House in November, went further than Mr. Reid and Mrs. Pelosi.

“I just cannot believe that they allowed this to happen and just told him, ‘OK, stay away from this kid,’ “Mr. Murtha said on ABC yesterday. “It really makes me nervous that they looked like they tried to cover it up.”

The scandal caused a weekend dispute among Republicans. Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, at first said he learned only last week about the Foley e-mails, but Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican, said Saturday that he had told Mr. Hastert about the matter months ago.

Mr. Hastert’s office later responded that the speaker had been unaware that Mr. Foley’s messages to the boys were anything more than “over-friendly.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday defended the response of Republican leaders. Mr. Gingrich, Georgia Republican, said that House leaders had been aware only of e-mails sent by Mr. Foley. Those e-mails reportedly did not include the sexually suggestive material contained in instant-message exchanges disclosed this week.

“There was nothing sexual in those [e-mails]. They had him counseled. They had the head of the page program, [Illinois Republican Rep. John] Shimkus, talk to [Mr. Foley] very directly. And I think they thought it was over,” Mr. Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The newest incident only surfaced when ABC News interviewed Foley, and he resigned within two hours, or I think the House leaders would have moved to expel him.”

Mr. Hastert made a similar point in his letter last night to Florida’s governor.

“As I am sure you are aware, there are two different and distinct communications at issue here,” the House speaker wrote to Jeb Bush, in requesting an investigation of possible state law violations by Mr. Foley. Mr. Hastert distinguished between the “over-friendly” e-mails to one teenager and “sexually explicit instant messages which Mr. Foley reportedly sent another former page or pages.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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