Last night, ABC’s Brian Ross reported that, according to a federal law enforcement source, “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.”
Subsequently, the Justice Department flatly denied the story.
This morning, Brian Ross appeared on ABC and defended his report. Ross said, “Despite flat and repeated denials from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials…describe the 64-year-old Illinois Republican [Hastert] as ‘very much in the mix’ of the corruption investigation.” Watch it:
ROSS: Good morning Robin. Despite flat and repeated denies from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials insist to ABC news the FBI investigation of capitol hill corruption has widened to include potentially Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Officials describe the 64-year-old Illinois republican as “very much in the mix” of the corruption investigation. Something the speaker told ABC News he was unaware of.
HASTERT: I know nothing about it.
ROSS: Part of the investigation is said to involve a letter Hastert wrote three years ago urging the Secretary of 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. Hastert says the story is untrue and has demanded a retraction. Our sources say Hastert is not considered the formal subject or target at this time but that the FBI will soon seek documents from him and other members of congress based on information from the convicted lobbyist Abramoff. The investigation, of course, is in it’s very early stages. It is very possible it will turn out there is nothing unlawful about Hastert relationship with Abramoff.