I was never a huge Hastert fan when he was Speaker of the House. I was never quite sure what, if anything, he believed in. Having said that, he did a couple of good things. He instituted the “Hastert Rule,” which says no bill comes to the floor of the House unless a majority of the GOP caucus is in favor of it. When the GOP was blown out in 2006, Hastert resigned. Now he is under indictment. He seems to have committed two crimes. First, he withdrew his own money from the bank in a way the Feds disapprove of to pay a blackmailer. Second, he wasn’t forthcoming when the FBI questioned him.
To be clear, I don’t really care what Hastert did to be blackmailed. As society has embraced homosexual marriage and a mutilated and mildly deranged Bruce Jenner we have moved past the point where we should be outraged about a teacher diddling a student. It is really a mark of Hastert losing touch with the zeitgeist that he agreed to pay blackmail rather than pitching the story as a reality show.
From the odious Bill Press:
As a Democrat, I know I’m supposed to cheer now that former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has been charged with federal crimes. But, in fact, I feel just the opposite.
It looks to me like he got a raw deal, and ended up the victim of an overzealous federal prosecutor.
Ken White at Popehat explains:
Hastert is charged with two federal crimes: structuring financial transactions to evade IRS reporting requirements in violation of 31 U.S.C. section 5324(a)(3) and lying to the FBI in violation of the notorious 18 U.S.C. section 1001. Both charges reflect the breadth of federal prosecutorial power.
We’ll learn more about the reasons for Hastert’s payments in the course of the case (or through Department of Justice leaks calculated to harm him). I suspect we’ll find that the investigation happened like this: the feds heard that Hastert was paying someone off based on an accusation of old misconduct, determined that the misconduct was too old (or out of their jurisdiction) to prosecute, and started subpoenaing records and interviewing witnesses until they found some element of what he was doing that was a federal crime. In other words, they targeted the man, and then looked for the crime.
The rational response to this situation is clear: don’t trust the feds, don’t talk to the feds. But Dennis Hastert, like many accomplished people, believed he could talk his way out of the situation. When the FBI came to interview him, he didn’t refuse to answer and call his lawyer. According to the indictment, he confirmed in response to an FBI agent’s question that he was withdrawing cash in order to store it because he didn’t feel the banking system was safe. For that, he’s been charged with lying to federal agents.
Under federal law, Hastert could literally have been indicted for telling FBI agents “it is none of your business” when asked why he was withdrawing money because it is their business.
This is basically the same strategy followed in the persecution of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. The feds started out with the theory that Ted Stevens had violated the law and then set out to prove it is the case. Eventually, far too late to be of interest to anyone, Stevens was exonerated based on prosecutorial misconduct. But the two ruthless, amoral assclowns who conspired to send Stevens to prison were cleared of misconduct.
Justice Department officials in 2012 concluded that assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Bottini and James Goeke committed professional misconduct and ordered that they be suspended without pay—Bottini for 40 days and Goeke for 15. The prosecutors, accused of withholding information from Stevens’ defense lawyers, challenged the suspensions.
An administrative law judge found department officials violated internal policies during the disciplinary process and reversed the suspensions. The Justice Department appealed. The Merit Systems Protection Board, which reviews discipline involving federal employees, on Jan. 2 upheld the judge’s decision.
There are too many laws and too many of these laws are vague. It has been estimated that the average American commits three felonies each and every day… whether you want to or not. Prosecutors have way to much discretion. In this case they had the discretion and resources to investigate and charge Denny Hastert with using his own money to pay hush-money to prevent personal embarrassment. But they lack the resources to deport criminal aliens. If the White House returns to American control in 2016, one of the first orders of business should be to severely curtail the ability of federal prosecutors and federal agencies to engage in selective prosecutions for the sake of garnering headlines.