Ex-Speaker Denny Hastert Indicted For Paying Hush Money To Cover Up Something REAL Bad
Once upon a time, while the Republican Party was trying to recover from its self-inflicted wounds after its disastrous impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton for getting an extramarital hummer, conservative evangelical Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert became Speaker of the House. He wasn't the first choice; Speaker Newt Gingrich had decided to retire, after making a mess of Congress, and the party's second choice, Bob Livingston, also resigned in disgrace -- for sexytiming someone who was not his wife -- before he could even assume the position. Runner-up Hastert eventually landed the gig because of his clean-as-a-whistle reputation. Certainly he would not bring hypocritical shame to the party that had just thrown a constitutional temper tantrum over a blowjob. Until now.
On Thursday, Hastert was indicted by the Department of Justice and IRS for (allegedly) transferring $1.7 million in cash to someone identified only as "Individual A," to compensate for and conceal Hastert's unspecified "prior misconduct." What does that mean in non-legalese? Hastert did something really, REALLY bad -- so bad, so really REALLY bad, that he was willing to pay millions of dollars to make sure no one ever found out about it. Allegedly.
We don't know what the something bad is. Yet. But Hastert's already found himself the best damn lawyers in America, apparently, because according to BuzzFeed, they negotiated a sweet deal with U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon to keep the details of the "prior misconduct" out of the indictment, though we have no idea why Fardon would make such a deal. Guess if you're going to be indicted, it's handy to be a rich white guy who was once third in line to the office of the presidency. Unless prosecutors are in the habit of leaving out the more salacious details of indictments for your average every day criminal? So we don't know what Hastert was trying to cover up, but the indictment includes just enough details that we can speculate what REALLY BAD thing Hastert might have done. Allegedly.
The first material fact alleged in the indictment is that Hastert "was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Illinois" from 1965 to 1981, before he became a member of Congress and then a lobbyist. That's not just a biographical fun fact; it's stated because it's relevant. Hmmmm.
Next, we learn that "Individual A has been a resident of Yorkville, Illinois and has known defendant JOHN DENNIS HASTERT most of Individual A’s life." Maybe a former student of Hastert's? Dunno; the indictment doesn't say. We're just wildly speculating at this point. But according to the indictment, Individual A met with Hastert several times, beginning in 2010, to discuss "past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier." And in those discussions, Hastert allegedly agreed to pay $3.5 million to Individual A so that Individual A wouldn't tell anybody about the "past misconduct." Whatever that might be. Maybe Hastert gave Individual A a not very good grade in wrestling class one time?
Over the next four years, Hastert withdrew big ol' piles of cash from his various bank accounts to pay to Individual A to keep that mysterious "past misconduct" on the down low. Funny thing, though: Hastert, despite once being the most powerful man in Congress, was unaware that federal law requires banks to file reports for cash transactions of $10,000 or more because that's kind of a lot of money. Which is how Hastert's withdrawals of $50,000 at a time caught the attention of his bank, who asked him, "Hey, man, what's with all these withdrawals of tens of thousands of dollars?" So Hastert, being a genius, started withdrawing less than 10 grand at a time, so no one would ask any more questions. Clever! Also, illegal! It's called "structuring," when you repeatedly withdraw just under $10,000 at a time to evade reporting requirements. It's still against the law, and that's why, in 2013, the FBI and the IRS started to look into it. Because illegal.
When the FBI questioned Hastert in December 2014, Hastert should have said, "Nah, man, that wasn't me. Someone must have stoled my identity! I would never do something illegal! I have a reputation for being a real upstanding guy. I have morals and family values. I am a good Christian!" But Hastert did not do that. Instead, according to the indictment, he told the FBI that yes, he had been withdrawing all the money, but he had a good reason: he did not trust the banking system anymore. So he was pulling out these big wads of cash, over the course of four years, totaling $1.7 million, to shove under his mattress or maybe buy gold to bury in his backyard, like Glenn Beck says. Just in case the American banking system suddenly collapses.
Would you believe the FBI didn't believe him? And that's why he's now charged with evading bank regulations and lying to the FBI and could be looking at 10 years in prison. For a guy who's 73, that could well be a life sentence, if he's found guilty. And a hell of a way to wrap up a career for a man who was so beloved by his colleagues and mostly kept his nose clean, even if he kinda sorta failed to investigate allegations that his colleague Republican Rep. Mark Foley was doing naughty sex talk to young congressional pages, and then he kinda sorta forgot to mention to the Federal Elections Committee that he'd used his campaign money to pay his legal fees in the whole Foley clusterfuck, OOPS!
Neither Hastert nor his fancy lawyers have commented on the indictment. Whether Individual A will be charged with extortion, which is also a crime, is unknown. Typically, it depends on who is the bigger victim -- the guy doing the extortion or the guy paying the extortion moneys. But if the allegations in the indictment are true, then Hastert may have done something really REALLY terrible to someone who'd met Hastert as a child, back in Yorkville, and who, all those decades later, had not forgotten about that horrible thing Hastert did to him or her, and whose dark secret was so dark that Hastert was willing to break the law and lie to the feds to keep it a secret.
Sure, Hastert is innocent until proven guilty. But unless he was telling the truth to the FBI -- and he merely withdrew almost 2 million bucks, not to pay Individual A blackmail cash but because he suspected the banks were about to crash any day now -- then it seems like Hastert just might have done a REALLY UNSPEAKABLY BAD THING. And this story, as it unfolds, is going to get a whole lot worse.