DAY IN COURT
Hastert Comes Out of Hiding
The indicted former House Speaker heads to a Chicago courtroom over charges related to what the feds call “prior misconduct.”
In his farewell speech to the House, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert harkened back to his job as a history teacher in Yorkville, Illinois, as he reflected on his two decades in Congress.
“It’s popular these days to ask political figures what mistakes they’ve made, where they have failed,” he said in November 2007. “As a former history teacher, I know such analysis is best tempered by time and reflection. And that it is best left to others.”
On Tuesday, Hastert is scheduled to appear in a Chicago courtroom to answer charges he violated federal disclosure laws and lied to the FBI in an effort to cover up alleged sexual abuse dating back to when he was a wrestling coach and high school teacher from 1965 to 1981.
Judge Thomas M. Durkin is to hear the case, despite the fact he gave $500 to Hastert’s re-election campaign in 2002 and $1,000 in 2004.
According to the May 28 indictment, Hastert agreed to pay someone—Individual A— $3.5 million to keep quiet about the alleged abuse, or “prior misconduct” as it is referred to by the feds. Between 2010 and 2014, Hastert had paid this person $1.7 million.
The identity of “Individual A” remains unknown to the public, as do the events that led to Hastert’s willingness to pay this person off.
It’s also not yet clear whether this was a case of extortion, since—so far—it doesn’t appear that “Individual A” is in any legal trouble.
As Hastert and his lawyer have remained silent, reports of other alleged victims have surfaced.
Last week, Jolene Burdge, the sister of one of Hastert’s former students, told ABC News her brother, Steve Reinboldt, said Hastert sexually abused him when he was the equipment manager for the wrestling team. Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995.
Hastert’s neighbors in Yorkville have been stunned by the allegations as reporters descended on their sleepy town dotted with soybean fields and farmhouses.
Back in Washington, former colleagues have been left going over conversations and interactions with the former speaker wondering how they could have missed such a glaring flaw of character from someone they knew as a plain-spoken straight shooter from the Midwest.
His Republican successor, Speaker John Boehner, fielded questions last week about whether Hastert’s official portrait would be removed from the wall in the Speaker’s Lobby.
“I think it’s important for us to have the facts before we make decisions," Boehner said.
Hastert’s role as a coach was often used as an explanation for his ability to unify the Republican Conference and push through the president’s agenda after two consecutive speakers stepped down because of scandal.
And as Hastert ended his tenure in Congress, he did so with a nod to an old wrestling tradition:
“There’s a tradition among Olympic wrestlers, you leave your shoes on the mat after the last match,” he said in 2007. “Don’t be alarmed, Madam Speaker, I won’t be challenging the rules of decorum by removing my shoes on the House floor, but I do hope to have left a few footprints behind that may be of value to those who come after me.”