Everything You Need to Know About the Hastert Indictment
Now Hastert, a former high school teacher and wrestling coach from Illinois, is charged with lying to FBI agents and violating federal banking-related reporting laws. But the real draw of the story—especially for the media outlets covering it—is what Hastert isn’t being charged for. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are both reporting that Hastert withdrew the funds in an attempt to conceal an alleged case of sexual abuse from his time as a teacher.
Here’s what has happened so far and what may happen next.
1. The indictment doesn’t say why Hastert was paying ‘Individual A’, though reporters are filling in the blanks
As BuzzFeed reported, an earlier version of the indictment was more explicit about what the “misconduct” Hastert committed against Individual A was, but the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to leave out details about the misconduct in the final report, in part because of a request from Hastert’s lawyers.
Two anonymous federal law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the “past misconduct” referenced in the indictment was sexual abuse involving a male, and that it happened when Hastert was a high school teacher in Illinois. The New York Times later published a similar report.
Prior to the report, media outlets pointed out that the first lines of the indictment were a thinly veiled hint:
The Associated Press quoted a source implying that the “past misconduct” had to do with Hastert’s time as a teacher. “Notice the teacher and coach language,” Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and head of the Chicago office of the investigation firm Kroll, told the AP. “Feds don’t put in language like that unless it’s relevant.”
Rachel Maddow called the start of the indictment “one of the more striking things I have ever seen in any sort of criminal case like this,” during her show Monday night. Politico, describing Hastert’s handling of the 2006 scandal involving Representative Mark Foley sending inappropriate texts to young, male, high school aged pages. The article reads:
Perhaps most devastating for Hastert was his handling of the sex scandal surrounding ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), an episode which might come to be viewed in a different light after Thursday’s announcement by the Justice Department.
2. Hastert is charged with lying to the FBI and avoiding federal banking-related reporting laws.
Around 2010 Hastert agreed to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” years earlier against Individual A, someone who lived in Yorkville, Illinois where Hastert taught as a teacher and wrestling coach. He allegedly agreed to pay $3.5 million, and began withdrawing the money in cash in $50,000 increments from his bank account.
Under federal law, banks have to report withdrawals over $10,000. After his bank questioned him about his withdrawals Hastert began making withdrawals under $10,000 to avoid the reporting requirements. This process, called “structuring” is a federal felony and comes with a five year prison sentence.
In December 2014, when asked about the withdrawals, Hastert told the FBI that he was keeping the cash at home, even though he was paying Individual A, the indictment says. Giving false evidence to the FBI could give him another five years in prison.
3. A weird call Hastert received on C-SPAN in 2014 is making the rounds.
There has also been a(n extremely weak) theory about the identity of Individual A floated on Friday, when The Hill and The Huffington Post wrote about a mysterious call on C-SPAN after the November 2014 election, when Hastert was on the air. The caller, “Bruce,” asked Hastert “Do you remember me from Yorkville?” before laughing and hanging up. The Hill noted that “[t]here’s no evidence linking the caller to Hastert’s alleged illegal activity, but the strange clip was posted onto the ‘My-CSPAN’ video library by a C-SPAN viewer the day that the indictment was announced.”
4. Hastert may have helped pass the law that led to his indictment.
Hastert was a big part of the push to get the Patriot Act passed in 2001. And as the Huffington Post noted Friday, the Patriot Act may have expanded the cash reporting laws that led to the charges against him:
The indictment suggests that law enforcement officials relied on the Patriot Act’s expansion of bank reporting requirements to snare Hastert. As the IRS notes, “the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 increased the scope” of cash reporting laws “to help trace funds used for terrorism.”
5. There is no scheduled court hearing.
Meanwhile, Hastert is expected to lay low, and has also been scrubbed from the site of his job as a lobbyist at Dickstein Shapiro.
Correction: The fourth point of this post was updated to change the word "conviction" to "indictment."