Thursday, October 5, 2006

From combined dispatches

The FBI’s ongoing “assessment” to determine whether disgraced former Florida Rep. Mark Foley violated federal law is focusing, in part, on a 21-year-old former page working on a gubernatorial campaign in Oklahoma.

Lawyer Stephen Jones, who represented convicted terrorist Timothy McVeigh, said yesterday that he been retained by the former page, Jordan Edmund, and was “reviewing” the matter.

Mr. Edmund was identified in Internet reports as one of the teenage boys with whom Mr. Foley, Florida Republican, purportedly exchanged sexually explicit online messages.

Matt Drudge reported yesterday that, according to two persons close to Mr. Edmund, the AOL Instant message exchanges that led to the Foley resignation were part of an online prank.

The Drudge Report said one Oklahoma source, “who knows the former page very well,” claims Mr. Edmund goaded an unwitting Mr. Foley to type embarrassing comments, which were shared with a small group of young Hill politicos. The Drudge Report said the prank went awry when the saved instant messages got into the hands of political operatives favorable to Democrats.

Mr. Edmund is a campaign staffer for Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Ernest Istook, a Republican.

In a statement Wednesday night, Mr. Istook asked the press to leave Mr. Edmund alone, saying, “It was a complete surprise to learn this morning that one victim may be someone I know.

“To every reporter, I request, please have the decency to avoid making things worse for the victims, and just leave them alone. This happened years ago when the victims were minors.”

Also yesterday, several more pages came forward with accounts of purported misconduct by Mr. Foley. ABC News reported that three pages, one each from 1998, 2000 and 2002, described being subject to sexual advances from Mr. Foley over the Internet, sometimes in graphic terms. The network did not name these persons.

Another former congressional page in Atlanta told the Associated Press yesterday that he had received sexually suggestive messages from Mr. Foley in 1997.

Tyson Vivyan’s account appears to show the earliest exchange of suggestive messages reported between Mr. Foley and teens who had served in the Capitol page program. Previous accounts placed the earliest contacts in 2003.

The FBI said over the weekend that it had begun a preliminary assessment to determine whether Mr. Foley violated the law when he sent sexually explicit instant messages three years ago to at least one teenage congressional page. The six-term Republican, who co-chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, resigned Friday shortly after ABC News questioned him about the messages.

The Justice Department also has ordered House officials to preserve all records concerning Mr. Foley’s electronic correspondence with congressional pages. Department lawyers could follow that order with search warrants and subpoenas, which would signal that the department likely was moving to a criminal investigation.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also confirmed yesterday that it was reviewing the matter.

“We will be discussing this matter with the FBI in an effort to determine if there are grounds for a criminal investigation and if so, who has jurisdiction,” said FDLE spokesman Tom Berlinger, adding that a decision in the case is not expected this week. He said the agency had not contacted Mr. Foley.

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