Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is facing two very different kinds of accusations. One, which led to his arrest, involved the Illinois Republican lying to the FBI about covering up "misconduct" from his tenure as a high school coach many years ago. Hastert has already issued a guilty plea as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors.
The second is the "misconduct" itself: Hastert is accused of being an alleged serial child molester. It's the severity of these accusations that's led prosecutors to seek the harshest possible penalty, including jail time. It's also prompted many of the former Speaker's allies to seek leniency.
The wife and sons of Dennis Hastert and former politicians have written letters asking a judge to spare the ex-Speaker of the House prison in his hush-money case, according to court documents made public Friday. Prosecutors are asking that Hastert, 74, be sentenced to six months in prison for structuring withdrawals to avoid bank reporting laws. Hastert's attorneys are asking for probation.
Perhaps no letter is quite as striking as the one sent by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who told the judge, "We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few."
It's almost like an ugly punch line to an inappropriate joke: Hastert's few "flaws" include being accused of sexually abusing several minors and then orchestrating a scheme to cover up his alleged misdeeds.
DeLay added that Hastert "doesn't deserve what he is going through."
No, seriously, that's what he said.
Look, I'm not trying to belabor the point, but according to federal prosecutors, Hastert "made payments to a man who was sexually abused at age 14 by Hastert when he was the boy's wrestling coach. Prosecutors said the abuse also involved 'other minors,' and included touching their genitals or engaging in oral sex." Those same court filings highlighted "private one-on-one encounters in an empty locker room and a motel room with minors that violated the special trust between those young boys and their coach."
As we discussed two weeks ago, the allegations paint a horrifying picture of a monster. They also raise an alarming realization that Dennis Hastert -- the longest serving Republican House Speaker in American history, a man who was two heartbeats from the presidency of the United States for eight years -- allegedly spent part of his life as a serial child molester, unbeknownst to anyone except Hastert and his victims.
"We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few"? How a human being would choose to put something like this in writing is difficult to understand.
The judge in this case is expected to announce a sentencing decision on Wednesday, April 27.