Two bad heartbeats away from the presidency

Dennis Hastert is duped into spending time with a self-promoting preacher who says the speaker vowed to resign.

Published October 11, 2006 7:32PM (EDT)

When it rains, it pours.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert spent about 40 minutes of his day yesterday talking and apparently praying with a "hustling, self-promoting evangelist" he somehow thought was a supporter of his.

As Mother Jones reports, K.A. Paul is an Indian-born evangelical minister "best known for hobnobbing with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Liberia's Charles Taylor and Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide." How did he wind up inside Hastert's home yesterday? The Chicago Sun-Times says one of Paul's aides bumped into Hastert in a restaurant Monday. The aide got Hastert on the phone with Paul, and Hastert agreed to a meeting at his house without telling his own staff, the Sun-Times says.

Once inside Hastert's house, Paul tells Mother Jones, he was able to persuade Hastert to resign as speaker. He says he told Hastert that "God has a very special plan for this meeting" and then delivered a sermon about what the speaker should do. At the end of the sermon, he says, Hastert told him that he'd resign "for the good of the people." "God convinced him through me in prayer," Paul says.

Paul may or may not be telling the truth about what happened when he was meeting privately with Hastert, but there's no dispute that he was there. Hastert's office confirms that the two men had a "cordial" conversation, even though it insists that Hastert doesn't agree with Paul's views.

How could the speaker of the House -- the man third in the line of presidential succession -- put himself alone in a room with somebody he didn't know? The Sun-Times says that's the subject of a "frank discussion" with Hastert's security detail.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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