- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

1:51 p.m.

A senior House Republican said today that former Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate e-mails to a page — now at the center of an intensifying federal investigation — should have been thoroughly pursued when they first came to light last spring.

As conservatives debated whether House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert should resign over his handling of the matter, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt said he would have handled it differently if he had known about it. The Missouri Republican was the acting majority leader when the complaint was raised.

Although Mr. Blunt did not criticize Mr. Hastert, his remarks to reporters in Springfield, Mo., were no endorsement of the speaker’s actions.

“I think I could have given some good advice here, which is you have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of,” Mr. Blunt said. “You absolutely can’t decide not to look into activities because one individual’s parents don’t want you to.”

On the federal investigation into Mr. Foley’s communications with teenagers in the congressional page program, acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia told Hill officials to “preserve all records” related to the matter, according to a Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Taylor’s three-page letter, dated yesterday, was sent to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to the Justice official. Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and Mr. Taylor’s request signals that investigators are moving past initial assessments and closer to a criminal investigation.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, Louisiana Republican and the congressman who sponsored the page at the heart of the furor, said Mr. Hastert “knew about the e-mails that we knew about,” including one in which Mr. Foley asked the page to send his picture. But he quickly backed off that comment, saying he discussed the e-mails with Mr. Hastert’s aides, not the speaker himself.

“I guess that’s a poor choice of words that I made there,” he told Associated Press.

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