Breaking: Hastert Indicted

This one is a stunner out of nowhere. News is breaking this afternoon of a federal indictment of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), for the crime of making “structured withdrawals” to avoid banking laws requiring reporting of transactions over $10,000—a law chiefly intended to hinder narcotics and other illegal activities.

The seven-page indictment (PDF file) suggests a significant personal scandal, involving Hastert agreeing to make regular $50,000 payments to someone identified only as “Individual A” after meeting with “Individual A” in 2010 over “past misconduct by defendant [Hastert] against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” Total payments were to be $3.5 million. Hastert had paid out about half this sum between 2010 and 2014 before the FBI and bank regulators got wind of the pattern of withdrawals. Hastert lied to the FBI, telling them that he was keeping the cash because he didn’t trust banks.

This sounds like either blackmail, or a private settlement to avoid a public lawsuit or public exposure over some kind of indiscretion on Hastert’s part long before he became a public figure. I’m not aware of any hint of scandal or bad behavior associated with Hastert prior to this. One of the curious details of this story is that Hastert left Congress after the 2008 election, yet this meeting with “Individual A” that began the payments is said to have occurred in 2010.

“Structured withdrawals” are what raised suspicions in New York a few years ago about “Client 9” that turned out to be Gov. Elliot Spitzer.