Calling him a “serial child molester” and his actions “unconscionable,” Judge Thomas Durkin sentenced Dennis Hastert to 15 months in prison, two years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for his abuse of four male wrestlers under his tutelage at Yorkville High School in Illinois over 30 years ago.
The sentence is remarkable in many ways. As Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, Hastert was second in line to the presidency after the Vice President, making him one of the highest-ranking office holders in the history of the United States ever to be put in prison. Not only that, but the 15-month prison far exceeds the federal guidelines of probation to six months for the banking violations of which he has been convicted. And Judge Durkin’s statements during sentencing leave no room for ambiguity about Hastert, his actions, or his legacy. He will forever be remembered as a convicted sex offender, a rapist and a child molester.
But it is not enough. Not nearly enough.
To people like Sibel Edmonds, the FBI whistleblower who has been trying to get the media to investigate the story of Hastert’s child sex abuse since he actually was the Speaker of the House, it may be a form of vindication, but it’s a hollow one to be sure. “The real ‘Dennis Hastert Case’ remains covered-up and buried,” she wrote in an email to me yesterday. “In fact, this quasi vindication makes it even more appalling how, and to what extent, they go about covering it up.”
“The media is presenting Hastert and his pedophilic activities as a thing that happened in the past, and in a vacuum. Based on their narrative, Hastert’s predatory actions stopped once he became an honorable US representative. That the man miraculously saw the light, said Hallelujah, and then … well, according to them, then nothing.”
This type of miraculous narrative of how a child abuser suddenly became a good man once getting into office would be bad enough if the media was reporting in good faith and didn’t have any information on his nefarious activities in office. But they are not reporting in good faith and evidence of his activities have been out in the open for over a decade with only one mainstream publication even approaching the story (and even they pulled their punches).
The evidence against Hastert comes from the FBI itself. In the mid-1990s, in the midst of his many sex scandals, Clinton ordered the DOJ to begin collecting information on top Republican officials to use as blackmail in the event of impeachment proceedings. The DOJ handed the task to the FBI’s counterintelligence unit, and they got to work surveilling and recording the activities of various congressmen and women. It was intel from this program that led to the outing of House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston’s adultery and his resignation from the House on the very day that Clinton’s impeachment hearings began. Representatives Henry Hyde, Helen Chenoweth, and Dan Burton all similarly had information leaked to the media about their marital infidelities during this timeframe.
But the program did not start or end there. Once the counterintelligence unit began its surveillance it began to collect information on a number of top officials on both sides of the aisle. Among them was the future Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. The illegal activities that the FBI recorded Hastert engaging in included receiving and laundering drug money, espionage, and bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and embezzlement, participation in foreign-operated drug operations and, of course, child sexual abuse.
Hastert not only helped cover up the Mark Foley House page abuse scandal, but he engaged in criminal sexual activity himself. According to Edmonds, the FBI had surveillance of Hastert on some of his junkets abroad to places like Thailand and Vietnam where he engaged in child sexual assault. This was corroborated by Wayne Madsen, who reported as far back as 2006 that:
“State Department sources have also reported that the visits of Hastert and other congressional leaders and staff members to certain Southeast Asian nations and the Northern Marianas should come under the scrutiny of the House Ethics Committee, now officially investigating ‘Pagegate.’ The Northern Marianas became infamous in the scandals involving Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff because of the presence in the US slave labor territory of Asian children being used as prostitutes. Conveniently, Foley co-chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, which would have had authority to investigate charges of child prostitution in the Northern Marianas. […]Hastert visited Vietnam, along with [Chief of Staff Scott] Palmer, in April of this year and spent three days in the country. Hastert, along with Illinois GOP Rep. Ray LaHood, canceled a visit to Thailand and Vietnam in January 2006. Hastert was also in Thailand in January 2002.”
All of this information, as well as corroborating testimony from FBI agents, sworn testimony, FEC filings and other sources, were presented to Vanity Fair in 2005. After filtering the info through their lawyers, what emerged was a tepid quasi-expose of how Hastert’s opposition to an Armenian genocide resolution was purchased by Turkish agents. The report made little splash, was followed up by no other mainstream outlets, and was immediately denied by Hastert’s spokesman:
“This is all nonsense. It’s not being reported by the mainstream press because there’s no factual evidence. The reporter does not have a transcript of any wiretap conversations that we know of, and even if he did it’s preposterous. The speaker does not have any connections to American Turkish interests.”
That denial was exposed as a transparent sham when, immediately after leaving office, Hastert registered as a foreign agent to lobby on the Hill for the Turkish government, but even this contradiction failed to receive any follow up from the MSM.
One can understand Edmonds’ frustration, then, that this latest “vindication” once again reinforces the mainstream narrative that Hastert’s child abuse was some sort of youthful indiscretion and he became a moral, upright person upon seizing office. Worse, it’s still not clear whether Hastert will even serve the 15 months he has been sentenced to.
“I am still not sure if Hastert is going to actually serve his time in jail,” Sibel wrote in her email yesterday. “He has big players for his legal representation. Keep in mind: the judge has seen evidence/documentation that has never been available/open to public (That should tell you the extent of his pedophile pedigree). Does this feel like vindication? Not at all: 1) the facts/truth is still not known to the public; 2) the fact that the FBI/DOJ/CIA have been sitting on all this evidence and far more (The pedophile/criminal acts he continued to engage in during his entire congressional tenure, etc.) is still kept from the public.”
And so we stand today with a Pyrrhic victory in the court of public opinion at best. Hastert’s name has been disgraced, yes. But it is not enough. Not nearly enough.