The Hastert "In the Mix" Story

Updated

Earlier tonight ABC News’ The Blotter reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the feds.

I received two e-mails from Krista Cole, a House staffer, in reponse to this article. The first denied The Blotter report:

“Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”

The second, from Ron Bonjean, Speaker Hastert’s Communications Director, demanded a retraction:

“The ABC News report is absolutely untrue. As confirmed by the Justice Department, ‘Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.’ We are demanding a full retraction of the ABC News story. The Speaker’s earlier statement issued today accurately reflects the facts regarding this matter.”

The Blotter issued an update on the story, and Brian Ross, the blog’s author, is not backing down:

Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement sources tonight said ABC News accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is “in the mix” in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress.

Speaker Hastert said tonight the story was “absolutely untrue” and has demanded ABC News retract its story.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has provided information to the FBI about Hastert and a number of other members of Congress that have broadened the scope of the investigation. Sources would not divulge details of the Abramoff’s information.

“You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully,” a senior official said.

The “in the mix” statement directly contradicts the Department of Justice statement. For Speaker Hastert to be “in the mix” of an investigation means that he has to be part of the investigation, which the DOJ flatly denied. Brian Ross appears to be standing by a story that doesn’t have legs.

Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit, and Michelle Malkin are following the story.

Update: Hugh Hewitt points out that the text of the story has changed since its original publication. Here’s the text of the article as cited by Hastert’s office:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigtaion by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbysists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

The day Abramoff was indicted, Hastert denied any unlawful connection and said he would donate to charity any campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and his clients.

A spokesman for Speaker Hastert told ABC News, “We are not aware of this. The Speaker has a long history and a well-documented record of opposing Indian Reservation shopping for casino gaming purposes.”

This week, Hastert has been outspoken in his criticism of the FBI for its raid on the office of anotehr congressman under investigation, Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana.

“My opinion is that they toook the worng path, Hastert said of the FBI. “They need to back up, and we need to go from there.”

Compare that to what now appears on The Blotter, which is the article I linked to earlier in this post:

Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time

Quite a different story.

And quite an old one. Dan Riehl points out that these details were originally published by the San Jose Mercury News in January of this year, four months ago:

Investigative reporter Brian Ross certainly is quite a sleuth. So, why is it his story contains even less detail than this archived story below from Mercury News via the Chicago Tribune dated … wait for it … January 4th. Way to go, Brian. Hell of a scoop! You were had and allowed it to go out to the world as news when it wasn’t news at all.

And Dan provides this additional information:

Also, it needs to be pointed out that the new Ross non-story includes these key elements: the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal “target” or “subject” of the investigation … The investigation of Hastert’s relationship with Abramoff is in the early stages, according to these officials, and could eventually conclude that Abramoff’s information was unfounded.

Consequently, there are no new facts in the Ross story and actually fewer than those published months ago. What was done is that the ties to Democrats were, for some reason, left out of this latest reporting rehash, which does not advance the story from January one single bit.

The Ross / ABC headline grabbing story is a non-story, perhaps fed to him by someone who wanted to take a shot at Hastert. And not even a web search was done to flesh the story out, or discover that Ross was being had. There is no news here whatsoever, other than what could have been known or assumed from reading the Chicago Tribune four months ago. In fact, there is less information – and pertinent facts omitted serve to make it appear worse than it might be.

So, let’s get back to the real corruption that’s going on here: Rep. William Jefferson was caught on camera accepting a $100,000 bribe. Human Events asks this about the mainstream media’s response to Rep. Jefferson’s behavior: “Where’s the Outrage?

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Not How, But Whether

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