Big questions remain after the indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was charged last month by federal prosecutors for allegedly structuring bank withdrawals to avoid reporting requirements when taking out more than $950,000 in cash and for lying to the FBI about it.
The scandal stems from Hastert’s time as a teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois, according to law enforcement sources who say it appears connected to sexual misconduct with a student. In 2010, he agreed to pay an individual $3.5 million in cash and began taking out large cash withdrawals to make the payment. Two years later, authorities say Hastert deliberately lowered payment amounts to $10,000 to avoid alerting the IRS, which monitors cash withdrawals greater than that amount. By the time of the indictment, $1.7 million had been paid to the individual.
Here’s what we know – and what we don’t know – about the scandal.
What are people who knew him saying? As the allegations of child abuse and misconduct have grown, many have expressed shock and surprise at the allegations.
“There isn’t anything that happened in the six years that I worked with Denny that would ever make me believe that there was anything improper,” Hastert’s former assistant coach Anthony Houle said. A former student and wrestling team member Gary Matlock said he was shocked — calling Hastert “super professional” and a “second father,” according to NBC News.
The school district where Hastert taught and coached said it had “no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct.”
But some are staying silent. Scott Palmer, the speaker’s former chief of staff who once shared a townhouse with Hastert, told NBC News that he had no comment. “I haven’t worked for the man for nine years,” he said from his home in Maine.
Who was Hastert paying off? Hastert’s indictment is connected to large cash payments made by the former House Speaker to someone identified in the indictment as “Individual A.” A law enforcement official told NBC News the individual is a former high school student — a male – and that the “misconduct” allegedly being hidden was sexual in nature.
Are there more victims? In the wake of the indictment, a woman came forward to say her deceased brother Steve Reinboldt told her he was sexually abused by Hastert and that he had stayed silent because he didn’t think anyone would believe him. A high school friend of Reinboldt’s confirmed to NBC News that Reinboldt told him a similar story. If all allegations are true, this could mean that two young men engaged in sexual relationships with Hastert while they were students. Now the question is: Were more students involved in such relationships with Hastert?
A group of sexual abuse survivors — the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) — is calling for other possible victims to come forward. “We urge those who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse by Hastert to speak up now,” they said in a statement.
Will Hastert comment?
Hastert has so far stayed silent on the matter – he’ll make a public appearance for the first time on Tuesday, when he’s scheduled to be arraigned. In the meantime, he’s retained high-powered attorney Thomas Green, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who is a veteran of political scandals.
What are people saying about Hastert’s legacy in Congress? The Republican lawmaker spent eight years as speaker of the House and his portrait hangs in Congress. At present, House Speaker John Boehner said there were no plans to remove his portrait. “I think it’s important for us to have the facts before we make decisions,” he said.
“But history, psychology and common sense — plus the actions of the FBI, a U.S. prosecutor and Hastert himself — all strongly suggest that he exploited his power over a youngster to sexually gratify himself,” SNAP said in a statement, adding that Hastert’s portrait could be returned if he’s exonerated. ”He does not deserve a place of honor in our nation’s Capital, even a symbolic one.”