Foley timeline

GOP leaders clash over who knew what when. But all agree only one member of Congress actually read the smoking e-mail.

Published October 3, 2006 1:14AM (EDT)

As the timeline below indicates, House Republicans Denny Hastert, John Boehner and Tom Reynolds are having some problems getting their stories straight when it comes to who knew what when about former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida. But one point they all seem to agree on is that only a single member of Congress actually read the text of the smoking e-mail.

Foley has a sexually explicit instant message exchange with a former page. Using the screen name "Maf54," Foley and the page discuss masturbation. (Source: ABC News, 9/29/06.)

Fall 2005
An e-mail exchange between Foley and a male page of Louisiana Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander is sexually suggestive but not as explicit as the instant messages. Some observers now say the banter reflects the kinds of tools a sexual predator might employ to engage a victim and should have set off alarms when discovered later. Foley asks how old the boy is and what he wants for his birthday and asks the boy to e-mail a "pic" of himself. (Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.)

Date unknown, "Fall" 2005
At some point Alexander's chief of staff calls Tim Kennedy, a staff assistant in the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., according to a news release from Hastert's office, and says that Alexander "had," meaning possessed the text of, an e-mail exchange between Foley and a former House page. Kennedy "did not reveal the specific text of the email but expressed that he and Congressman Alexander were concerned about it." The release does not give a specific date, or even a month, and does not identify Alexander's chief of staff. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Date unknown, "Fall" 2005
Kennedy "immediately" went to his boss, Hastert deputy chief of staff Mike Stokke. Stokke tells Kennedy to contact the speaker's in-house counsel, Ted Van Der Meid. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Date unknown, "Fall" 2005
Van Der Meid tells Kennedy to contact the clerk of the House, who is the House officer responsible for the page program. Later this same day, Stokke meets with Alexander's chief of staff. "Once again the specific content of the email was not discussed," at that meeting. Apparently the same day, Stokke called the clerk to come to the speaker's office to meet with Alexander's chief of staff. Instead, the clerk and Alexander's chief of staff went to the clerk's office to discuss the matter. The clerk asked to see the e-mail. Alexander's "office" declined, citing privacy. "The clerk asked if the email exchange was of a sexual nature and was assured it was not." Instead, Alexander's chief of staff called the exchange "over-friendly." Hastert's release never gives the name of the clerk of the House, but gives the gender as male. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Date unknown, "Fall" of 2005
The clerk contacts Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the Page Board, and asks for an "immediate" meeting. It "appears" that the clerk also notified Van Der Meid that the clerk was "taking action." (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Date unknown, "Fall" 2005 The clerk and Shimkus meet and then "immediately" meet with Foley to ask Foley about the e-mail. The clerk and Shimkus "made it clear" that to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety and at the request of the parents" Foley was to "immediately cease any communication with the young man." Later that day on the House floor, the clerk told Van Der Meid that Shimkus and he had taken "corrective action." (Source: Hastert news release.) At that meeting, Foley claimed the communications were "innocent." (Source: New York Times, 10/2/02.)

Note: Hastert's office claims that during this time, Kennedy, Van Der Meid and Stokke "did not discuss the matter with others in the Speaker's Office" to protect the child's privacy. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Nov. 16, 2005
Denny Hastert nominates Karen Haas, his former floor assistant, to replace Jeff Trandahl as clerk of the House. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/16/05.) Trandahl, who worked for Republican members of Congress for 15 years before serving as clerk for seven, announced his departure on Sept. 30, effective Nov. 18, to serve as head of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. (Source: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation press release, 9/30/05.)

Date unknown, "Spring" 2006
Alexander tells Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, about the Foley events from the previous fall. The NRCC's job is to get Republicans elected to the House. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Date unknown, "Spring" 2006
Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says now that Boehner at this time had a "brief, nonspecific" conversation with Alexander about the Foley matter. Madden said Boehner could not remember now if Boehner had told other GOP leaders. (Source: New York Times 10/2/06.)

Date unknown, apparently "Spring" 2006
In a meeting, Reynolds tells Hastert "that an investigation was conducted by the Clerk of the House and Shimkus" of the Page Board. Hastert now "does not explicitly recall this conversation," but Hastert "has no reason to dispute" Reynold's claim. (Source: Hastert news release.) Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, the lone Democrat on the Page Board, releases a statement that says, "Any statement by Mr. Reynolds or anyone else that the House Page Board ever investigated Mr. Foley is completely untrue ... I was never informed of the allegations about Mr. Foley's inappropriate communications with a House Page and I was never involved in any inquiry into this matter." (Source: statement, Kildee, 9/30/06.)

July 2006
Foley gives $100,000 to the NRCC as part of the "Battleground Program." (Source: New York Times, 10/2/06.)

Sept. 28, 2006
The first e-mail exchanges between Foley and a male page are reported by ABC News. Foley dismisses them as "overly friendly" but not inappropriate. (Source: New York Times, 9/30/06.)

Sept. 29, 2006
Other pages come forward with sexually explicit instant messages. Foley resigns from Congress. (Source: New York Times, 9/30/06.)

Sept. 29, 2006
At a signing ceremony for the military commission bill, Hastert tells reporters that Foley has "done the right thing." Hastert says he has "asked John Shimkus who is head of the Page Board, to look into this issue regarding Congressman Foley." (Source: Washington Post, 9/30/06.) As the scandal breaks, Hastert claims he first learned about the Foley situation the previous week. (Source: Washington Post, 10/2/06.)

Sept. 29, 2006
House Majority Leader Boehner first tells the Washington Post he had learned in the spring 2006 about inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page and that he had told Hastert back then. Boehner later contacted the Post and said he could not remember whether he had talked to Hastert. (Source, Washington Post, 10/1/06.)

Sept. 29, 2006
Hastert directs his chief of staff and outside counsel to conduct an internal review to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding contact with the Office of the Speaker regarding the Foley matter. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Sept. 30, 2006
Reynolds releases a statement saying that in spring 2006, he informed Hastert of the investigation into the Foley e-mails conducted by the clerk of the House and Shimkus. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.) "Despite the fact that I had not seen the e-mails in question, and Mr. Alexander told me that the parents didn't want the matter pursued, I told the speaker of the conversation Mr. Alexander had with me," Reynolds said. (Source: CBS News, 9/30/06.)

Sept. 30, 2006
Hastert releases a brief timeline of the Foley issue prepared by chief of staff and outside counsel. (Source: Hastert news release, 9/30/06.)

Oct. 1, 2006
Hastert writes Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Hastert asks Gonzales to conduct an investigation to see if Foley broke the law. Hastert says the sexually explicit instant messages and the "over friendly" e-mails are "two different and distinct communications." Hastert requests that Gonzales also launch an investigation into the sexually explicit instant messages specifically, and look "into the extent there are persons who knew or had possession of these messages but did not report them to the proper authorities." With respect to the instant messages, Hastert asks Gonzales to look into "who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications" between Foley and any pages. Bush is asked to determine if any state laws were violated.

Oct. 1, 2006
The FBI announces an inquiry to determine if Foley broke any laws. (Source: New York Times, 10/2/06.)

Oct. 2, 2006
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, tells reporters in a conference call that her organization received the e-mails, but not the instant messages, on July 21, 2006, and sent them along to the FBI that same day. Sloan says the FBI's apparent failure to begin an investigation then makes them complicit in "dropping the ball" like House leaders. The FBI declines to say when its investigation began.

By Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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