Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, allegedly made a series of illegal bank withdrawals in an effort to conceal past sexual misconduct with an unnamed person, a law enforcement official said. Hastert’s alleged misconduct occurred years ago when he was an Illinois high school teacher and wrestling coach.
Hastert was charged yesterday for the illegal bank activity as well as lying to investigators about where the money was going. Two unamed sources who were briefed on the court papers said today that the former speaker was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to The New York Times on Friday, May 29, 2015.
It was unclear when the alleged behavior occurred, but according to court documents Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill., from 1965 to 1981. Supposedly the F.B.I. was not able to substantiate the allegations beyond the man’s statements.
Federal authorities unsealed the indictment of Mr. Hastert on Thursday. The papers skirted the issue of what Mr. Hastert had done to the man that led to the payments.
The indictment did say that in 2010, the man met with Mr. Hastert several times. And at one of those meetings Mr. Hastert apparently agreed to pay him $3.5 million, “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against,” the man.
Multiple other media outlets have cited anonymous sources who said investigators also interviewed a second alleged victim. The indictment said Mr. Hastert was structuring the cash withdrawals in increments designed to avoid bank reporting requirements.
Federal prosecutors said in the indictment that the 73-year-old Hastert had made cash withdrawals from banks in a way that was designed to evade federal reporting requirements, and to cover up that he was paying the person a total of $3.5 million. The indictment said that Hastert had made $1.7 million in payments so far.
A federal magistrate set a preliminary bond of $4,500 and Hastert is free on his own recognizance. Yorkville, Ill., is about 50 miles southwest of Chicago.
The allegations against a man who was once one of the most powerful people in Washington, and who for eight years was second in line to the presidency, came as a shock to many. It has left fellow lobbyists, lawmakers and veteran Capitol Hill staff members to speculate about what Mr. Hastert might have done to the person identified only as “Individual A” in the indictment.
“It’s surprising, I think that would be a universal response. And, of course, it remains to be seen what comes forth now. But it’s very sad for him and sad, really, for the Congress. We don’t like one of our former leaders to be in this kind of a situation,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told MSNBC, according the USA Today.
Pelosi went on to say that when Mr. Hastert was the speaker, the Democrats were running against a culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence in trying to win back the White House. She added that at the time there were many indictments, but that they had no idea it would include the Speaker of the House, and that it was very sad because it reflects poorly on the Congress of the United States.
Back home the charges of wrongdoing against Hastert are almost unfathomable. Hastert’s friends in the town of about 17,000 can’t square the picture that prosecutors painted in their indictment with the man they know.
For the people who knew Hastert long before he became speaker, the allegations are at odds with the man that launched his political career there. Prosecutors have not detailed the wrongdoing, but say the unidentified person was from Yorkville, and knew Hastert for much of the individual’s life.
Many on Capitol Hill were shocked at the news. So far officials for the F.B.I. have refused to comment.