Leading Off:• WATN: Did anyone see this coming? Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a Republican who represented Illinois for almost two decades, was just indicted on charges that he lied to the FBI and “structured” financial transactions to avoid IRS detection. Prosecutors have made few details of the allegations known so far (the indictment itself can be found here), but according to unnamed sources cited by BuzzFeed, the charges could stem from actions Hastert took before entering politics all the way back in 1980.
Hastert unexpectedly became speaker in 1999, after Newt Gingrich resigned from the House following a terrible election year for the GOP in 1998, and Rep. Bob Livingston, his designated successor, also resigned following revelations that he’d had an affair. During his tenure, Hastert was widely regarded as a figurehead, with real power residing in Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, whose career ended amid corruption allegations.
Hastert, by contrast, followed Gingrich’s path: After disastrous midterms in 2006 that saw Democrats retake the chamber, he, too, quit the House. By that time, Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, and in a further insult, Democrat Bill Foster picked up Hastert’s seat in a special election. Hastert always maintained a low profile in D.C., and he’s barely been heard from since he left Washington. But now it looks like we’re about to hear a whole lot more…..