Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hastert aide: Probe rumor is retaliation

WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- An aide to U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., claims news reports Hastert is being probed in a lobbying scandal is payback by the Justice Department.

Wednesday night, ABC News reported sources at the Justice Department said Hastert was among those involved in a probe of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In an unusual move, the department very quickly issued a denial.

Speaking to The Chicago Sun-Times, Hastert's deputy chief of staff Mike Stokke said he didn't blame ABC News for bad reporting but rather questioned the timing of the "leak." He referred to a stinging challenge Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made on Sunday that the FBI surrender documents it seized during an unprecedented weekend raid on the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.

"We've been in discussion with them since Sunday, with the Department of Justice, on this other matter of unconstitutional search and seizure." Stokke told the newspaper. "I don't recall any threats being made, but this is what is called in baseball a brushback pitch. ABC News got this from somewhere. I don't think they made this up."

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