Source Undercuts Hastert on Foley Timeline

ByABC News
October 7, 2006, 3:26 PM

Oct. 7, 2006 — -- House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's chief of staff met with disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley to discuss the time and attention Foley was giving House pages years before the speaker's office admits becoming aware of the issue, a current House staffer told ABC News.

The staffer, who asked not be identified because of the ongoing FBI and House Ethics Committee investigations, told ABC News of learning in November 2005 about an earlier meeting between Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer and Foley, R-Fla.

November 2005 was around the time Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., head of the House Page Board, and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, who was administrator of the page program, met with Foley about an e-mail exchange Foley had with a former page sponsored by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La.

"At that time, I became aware that there was a previous meeting" between Foley and Palmer, the House staffer told ABC News.

That seems to corroborate the account of Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, who said he had gone to Palmer to ask the speaker's office's to intervene and try to change Foley's behavior as far back as 2003.

Palmer has since said, "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen."

On Wednesday, Fordham was forced to resign as chief of staff to Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., who heads the effort to elect Republicans to the House in this fall's midterm elections.

Before the scandal became public, sources told ABC News, Trandahl had called Fordham several times to complain that Foley was paying too much attention to pages. Fordham said he would talk with Foley about the matter, according to the accounts.

Usually, Foley's behavior would change for a short time, only to return -- and Trandahl would call Fordham again, according to the sources.

After several such cycles, the sources said, Fordham and Trandahl discussed seeking the help of Hastert's office, which led to Fordham's meeting with Palmer.

Republicans had hoped Hastert's "the buck stops here" speech last Thursday would ease some of the pressure on him, but the daily drip of the Foley scandal continues to keep the focus on what Hastert and his staff knew and when they knew it.

Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times also reported claims that Palmer was aware of allegations against Foley before Hastert's office acknowledges knowing about them.

Hastert's office is now declining to talk about specifics of the scandal, citing the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation.