Lawyer: FBI To Question Former Aide About Foley Scandal
The FBI will interview a top congressional aide Thursday, the day after he resigned and said he had warned House leaders about Rep. Mark Foley's contacts with teenage pages before 2005, the aide's lawyer said.
Kirk Fordham, chief of staff to Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds, will be questioned in the FBI's investigation into Foley's sexually explicit Internet correspondence with teenage male congressional pages, attorney Tim Heaphy said.
The interview will focus on whether Fordham knew of any possible crimes committed by Foley, Heaphy said.
Fordham was the top aide to Reynolds and once held the same job for Foley.
Fordham said he did not intervene to help Foley
In a sharply worded statement issued after his resignation, Fordham denied intervening with the House Page Board on Foley's behalf and dropped a new bombshell: He had notified "senior staff at the highest levels" about concerns with the six-term GOP congressman.
"Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005," he said.
Scott Palmer, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's chief of staff, issued a terse statement.
"What Kirk Fordham said did not happen," he said.
Fordham's statement cast doubt on top GOP leaders' statements that they heard nothing of Foley's inappropriate behavior before then.
Fordham elaborated in an interview with ABC News, saying he told Palmer that Foley was too friendly with the pages, and that Palmer talked to Foley.
Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean told ABC News, "That [warning] never happened."
In a statement to CNN, Bonjean said only that "this matter has been referred to the Standards Committee and we fully expect that the bipartisan panel will do what it needs to do to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House."
A GOP leadership aide, however, questioned why Fordham told AP on Wednesday morning that he "had no inkling that this kind of blatantly reckless -- just obscene -- behavior was going on behind our backs," but later said he had warned Hastert about it.
"It's contradictory from what he said just this morning. He's changed his story," the aide said.
Fordham's former boss, Rep. Reynolds, is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is working to keep the GOP in control of the House in November's elections. The scandal has not only rocked the Republican leadership but it has become an issue in Reynolds' upstate New York district just weeks before the vote.
"It is clear the Democrats are intent on making me a political issue in my boss's race, and I will not let them do so," Fordham wrote in his resignation letter.
Reynolds would not say Wednesday whether he asked Fordham to quit. However, Reynolds said he thought it was "inappropriate" for his chief of staff to negotiate with a news outlet over its coverage. And he said Fordham believed he was becoming a "distraction."
Foley, a six-term Florida Republican, resigned Friday after his e-mails to a teenage boy who had served as a congressional page became public -- and as ABC News was about to air more explicit records of instant messages the congressman exchanged with other pages.
ABC reported that Fordham offered the network an exclusive on Foley's resignation if it agreed not to air transcripts of the most explicit messages. Wednesday, citing unnamed GOP sources, it said Fordham had interceded with Republican leaders to keep concerns raised by the family of a Louisiana teen from the full three-member board that oversees the page program.
The network also reported that Fordham's associates consider him a scapegoat for Hastert, R-Illinois, who has been sharply criticized for his handling of the issue. But Bonjean, a spokesman for the speaker, said Hastert had no advance knowledge of Fordham's resignation, nor did he demand it.
Conservatives rally behind Hastert
The resignation comes as key conservative House members voiced support for Hastert but questioned how he handled the Foley matter.
The call for Hastert's resignation came Tuesday in an editorial on The Washington Times Web site. The editorial charged that "either [Hastert] was grossly negligent ... or he deliberately looked the other way."
A spokesman for Hastert said the speaker would not step down.
And in a statement released Wednesday, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, and Joe Pitts, R-Pennsylvania, said "regardless of our reservations about how this matter was handled administratively, we believe Speaker Hastert is a man of integrity who has led our conference honorably and effectively throughout the past eight years. Speaker Dennis Hastert should not resign. "
Pence is chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee, and Pitts is chairman of the conservative Values Action Team.
A key Hastert ally, Republican Ray LaHood of Illinois, said the call for Hastert to step down was "absolute nonsense."
"The speaker brought us through 9/11. He's helped the president with major legislative initiatives," LaHood said Wednesday.
However, not all Republicans are in Hastert's corner. Rep. Ron Lewis, of Kentucky, "disinvited" the speaker Tuesday from joining him on a campaign stop, Lewis' spokesman Michael Dodge said.
"It was not done as a gesture to condemn the speaker," Dodge said. "There's an investigation that's begun with the FBI, the House ethics committee is going to convene as early as tomorrow and in light of there being some questions in leadership about who knew what and when [Lewis thought] it would be inappropriate."
Dodge also said that the Foley matter "came up at just about every stop" Wednesday on the campaign trail.
Shadegg shows support
Arizona Republican Rep. John Shadegg, however, rallied to Hastert's side Tuesday, circulating a letter that says the calls for Hastert to resign "are unwarranted and fundamentally unfair."
The letter, dated Tuesday, said at least two newspapers, including the Miami Herald, knew of an e-mail exchange between Foley and a page "for months" and didn't view the contacts as significant.
"And, after conducting their own inquiries, they decided not to publish the story or pursue the matter further," the letter continued.
"To demand (Hastert's) resignation based on the current facts and before the investigation that he has called for is completed, is unwarranted and wrong," the letter said.
But another member of the House leadership, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, said Tuesday said he would have handled the Foley situation differently, the AP reported.
"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," Blunt said, according to the AP. "You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to."
CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
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