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Gay former House
clerk testifies in Foley investigation

Gay former House
clerk testifies in Foley investigation

A former House clerk Thursday joined the parade of Capitol Hill figures questioned by House Ethics Committee members trying to understand the circumstances behind ex-congressman Mark Foley's computer messages to teenage male pages. Former House clerk Jeff Trandahl, who is gay, did not answer reporters' questions as he left the panel's offices after several hours of testimony.

His appearance was central to the case, though, since he shouldered day-to-day responsibility for the page program and had confronted Foley last fall about inappropriate e-mails. ''Jeff Trandahl has cooperated fully with the investigation being conducted by the FBI and the...Committee on Standards. He answered every question asked of him, and stands ready to render additional assistance if needed,'' Trandahl's attorney, Como Namorato, said in a statement.

Namorato said that Trandahl would not comment while the investigation is ongoing.

At issue in the Ethics Committee investigation is how the office of House speaker Dennis Hastert dealt with the knowledge that Foley, a Florida Republican, was sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage congressional pages. The answers could affect not just Hastert but the prospects for control of the House when voters cast ballots in the November 7 midterm election.

In an internal report released by Hastert, his aides contend that they first learned about Foley's conduct in the fall of 2005, when they became aware of overly friendly e-mails to a former Louisiana page. However, Foley's former top aide said he told Hastert's chief of staff about Foley's conduct in 2002 or 2003.

House majority leader John Boehner, who also was to testify Thursday, told a Cincinnati radio station earlier this month that when he approached Hastert about Foley last spring, the speaker told him that ''it had been taken care of.''

With polls showing the Foley scandal could hurt Republicans in the November 7 midterm election, Trandahl's testimony could be damaging if he contradicts Hastert's account and says Republican leaders lacked the urgency required to protect the teenage pages. Hastert has fended off calls for his resignation and said he believes he and his staff acted properly.

Trandahl was the official who likely would have known about any problems involving the page program, including improper conduct by pages or improper approaches from lawmakers or House employees. He supervised the program and was on its controlling group, the House Page Board, which consists of three lawmakers, the House clerk, and the sergeant at arms.

Foley resigned his seat September 29 after he was confronted with sexually explicit instant messages he sent former male pages, messages far more damaging than those sent the Louisiana page. In that case, Foley asked what the 16-year-old wanted for his birthday and requested a picture.

Foley, 52, has said through his attorney that he is alcoholic, gay, and had been molested as a boy by a ''clergyman.''

At the Capitol, House Republican caucus chairman Deborah Pryce asked the House clerk to investigate what she described as rumors that Foley, while intoxicated, had once tried to enter the page residence hall but was stopped by Capitol police.

Trandahl is known to have confronted Foley at least once. The chairman of the Page Board, Republican congressman John Shimkus of Illinois, has publicly said he and Trandahl spoke with Foley in the fall of 2005 after learning--from Hastert's aides--about the e-mails to the former Louisiana page. The boy's parents wanted the contact ended, and Foley promised to comply, Shimkus said.

Hastert has said he didn't learn about Foley in 2005 and didn't know about the problems until the scandal broke late last month. However, two other Republican leaders said that they told Hastert months earlier.

The speaker's statements conflict with those of Kirk Fordham, Foley's gay former chief of staff, who said he told Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer about Foley in 2002 or 2003. Palmer disputed Fordham's version of events. Hastert has told reporters that if he learns that anyone on his staff covered up information, they will be fired.

Trandahl also knew about a Foley incident with a page as early as 2001, according to Republican congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona. Kolbe said a former page he had sponsored contacted his office to complain of e-mails from Foley and that he ''passed along'' the complaint to the offices of both Foley and Trandahl.

Hastert and his aides, including Palmer, have not yet given their accounts to the Ethics Committee. (AP)

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