The Mark Foley mess is an even bigger debacle for the St. Pete Times than I first imagined. Now House Speaker Dennis Hastert is essentially saying: "Look everybody, the Times had the e-mails and they didn't do anything either!"
And the sad thing is that Hastert is right. The Times has a lot of soul-searching -- and possible head-rolling -- to do while they go through this period of deep embarrassment and journalistic shame. Full text of Hastert letter to the U.S. Attorney General after the jump.
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Speaker's Press Office United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 1, 2006
Speaker Hastert Letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today sent the following letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
Former Representative Mark Foley resigned from the House of Representatives on Friday, September 29, 2006, after improper and illicit communications between Mr. Foley and former House pages were made public. While the House of Representatives on that day voted to refer this matter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for investigation, they do not have jurisdiction over federal law or over him upon his resignation from office.
As Speaker of the House, 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.
As I am sure you are aware, there are two different and distinct communications at issue here. First, Mr. Foley sent an email to a former page of Representative Alexander in the fall of 2005. This email was determined to be "over friendly" by Representative Alexander's office but was not sexual in nature. Second, based on media reports, there is a different set of communications which were sexually explicit instant messages which Mr. Foley reportedly sent another former page or pages. These communications, of which no one in the House Leadership was aware to my knowledge, reportedly were sent sometime in 2003.
According to an Editor's Note that appeared on the St. Petersburg Times' website yesterday, the Times was given a set of emails from Mr. Foley to Representative Alexander's former page in November of 2005. (See "A Note From the Editors" located at http://blogs.tampabay.com/buzz/, visited on September 30, 2006). The editors state that they viewed this exchange as "friendly chit chat" and decided not to publish it after hearing an explanation from Representative Foley. Acting on this same communication, the Chairman of the House Page Board and the then Clerk of the House confronted Mr. Foley, demanded he cease all contact with the former page as his parents had requested, and believed they had privately resolved the situation as the parents had requested.
Unlike the first communication, the second communication was a set of instant messages that contained sexually explicit statements and were reportedly generated three years ago. Last week, ABC News first reported these sexually explicit instant messages which led to Representative Foley's resignation. These sexually explicit communications warrant a criminal referral in two respects. Initially, since the communications involve interstate communications, there should be a complete investigation and prosecution of any federal laws that have been violated. In addition, since the communications appear to have existed for three years, there should be an investigation into the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the appropriate authorities. It is important to know who may have had the communications and why they were not given to prosecutors before now.
Therefore, I also request that the Department undertake an investigation into who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement. 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.
Your attention to this serious matter is appreciated. I am also sending to the Department of Law Enforcement for the State of Florida a request to investigate whether or not any state laws were violated by Mr. Foley or anyone else with respect to this matter.
J. Dennis Hastert Speaker