WASHINGTON – The FBI is examining former Rep. Mark Foley’s e-mail and instant-message exchanges with teenagers to determine if they violated federal law, an agency spokesman said Sunday.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the FBI is “conducting an assessment to see if there’s been a violation of federal law.” He had no further comment.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., requested Sunday that the Justice Department conduct an investigation into Foley’s electronic messages to teenage boys.
The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress also called Sunday for a criminal probe. White House counselor Dan Bartlett called the allegations against Foley shocking, but said President Bush hadn’t learned of Foley’s inappropriate e-mails to a 16-year-old boy and instant messages to other boys before the news broke last week.
“There is going to be, I’m sure, a criminal investigation into the particulars of this case,” Bartlett said. “We need to make sure that the page system is one in which children come up here and can work and make sure that they are protected.”
Foley, 52, R-Fla., quit Congress on Friday after the disclosure of the e-mails he sent to a former congressional page and sexually suggestive instant messages he sent to other high school pages.
In his letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Sunday, Hastert asked the Justice Department to investigate “who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement.”
The scope of the investigation, Hastert wrote, should include “any and all individuals who may have been aware of this matter – be they members of Congress, employees of the House of Representatives or anyone outside the Congress.”
In the letter, Hastert acknowledged that some of Foley’s most sexually explicit instant messages were sent to former House pages in 2003. That was two years before lawmakers say they learned of a more ambiguous 2005 e-mail that led only to a quiet warning to Foley to leave pages alone.
Hastert maintained at first that he had learned only last week about the e-mails. But Rep. Thomas Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, said Saturday he had told Hastert months ago about concerns Foley sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy. Reynolds, R-N.Y., is under attack from Democrats who say he did too little to protect the boy.
Hastert acknowledged over the weekend that his aides had, in fact, referred the matter to the House clerk and to the congressman who was chairman of the board that oversees the page program, and that Foley had been ordered to cease contact with the youth. Hastert’s office said, however, it had not known the e-mails were anything more than “over-friendly.”
Also Sunday, a former House page said that at a 2003 page reunion, he overheard discussions of sexually suggestive e-mails Foley had sent to another former page. Patrick McDonald, 21, now a senior at Ohio State University, said he eventually learned of “three or four” pages from his 2001-2002 class who were sent such messages.
He said he remembered saying at the reunion, “If this gets out, it will destroy him.”
Former page Matthew Loraditch said Sunday he has known for years about the “creepy” messages three 2002 classmates received from Foley. He said Foley sent them after the boys had finished the House program. Each began innocuously but took a turn in tone, said Loraditch, a senior at Towson University.
McDonald and Loraditch said they received no improper messages from Foley. None of the three former pages is yet willing to step forward, according to McDonald and Loraditch.