Prosecutors tell all: A serial child molester was two heartbeats from the White House

    Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is shown in June 2015 at the federal courthouse in Chicago for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

    Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert is shown in June 2015 at the federal courthouse in Chicago for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

    The next time right-wingers rail about transgender people in bathrooms, the next time they voice their desire to “protect our children,” I recommend this two-word retort:

    Dennis Hastert.

    See how easy that is? All this whipped-up fear about transgender people preying on kids in the john — yet here we have a former Republican Speaker of the House, a so-called role model and champion of traditional “family values,” the proud owner of a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition, a pillar of his Illinois community … and it turns out, according to court filings released Friday by federal prosecutors, that he molested at least four underage boys back when he was their mentor and wrestling coach.

    You can read all the pervy details — the sex acts that Hastert performed on two of them; the comfy recliner that he positioned so that he could watch the boys shower — but the prosecutors sum things up nicely: “[Hastert’s] history and chararacteristics are marred by stunning hypocrisy …. While [he] achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, and all are still struggling now with what the defendant did to them …. It is profoundly sad that one of their earliest sexual experiences was in the form of abuse by a man they trusted.”

    The court filing came on Friday because Hastert — “the defendant” — is slated to be sentenced on April 27 for violating federal banking laws. He pleaded guilty last summer in the wake of revelations that he’d made huge suspicious cash withdrawals, and had lied to banking officials and the FBI about what the money was for. The press reported last summer that he was trying to buy the silence of an abuse victim, but Friday’s court filing is official confirmation — and the first time that we’ve learned of Hastert’s broader predatory behavior.

    Most importantly, the prosecutors want Hastert thrown in the slammer. The sentencing judge should “balance the positive nature of defendant’s public service with the need to avoid a public perception that the powerful are treated differently than ordinary citizens when facing sentencing for a serious crime.”

    “The powerful” indeed. Let’s remember that this family values fraud (1999: “We must continue to be proactive warding off the pedophiles and creeps who want to take advantage of our children”) was two heartbeats away from the presidency from ’99 to ’07, the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history. It’s amazing how high a Republican can rise by feeding moralisms to The Base (2003: “It is important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives”).

    And here’s the best passage in the court filing. The passage that nails Hastert’s “stunning hypocrisy.”

    Under the terms of the PATRIOT Act — which Hastert voted for — bank officials and the feds are required to flag huge suspicious bank withdrawals. That’s a big reason why Hastert’s bank asked him what was going on. The prosecutors tell the tale: “Defendant initially told the risk management officer that the withdrawals were none of his business.” Hastert tried various ruses, but “his explanations did not make sense …. The risk management officer explained to defendant the bank’s obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act and the PATRIOT Act. Defendant stated that he was aware of the law, but that the PATRIOT Act was just for terrorism, and he was not a terrorist.”

    Oh yes he was.

    Terrorists aren’t just swarthy people with funny names. Terrorists can be white-bread pillars of the white-bread community, people with all-American names who use God as protective cover (Hastert to the Christian Coalition, 2004: “More kids need to be taught to just say no … to sex before marriage”). Ask those Wheaton, Illinois, kids whether they felt terrorized by the purported role model in their midst.

    Heck, Hastert’s own lawyer goes right to the cusp of admitting it: “He earnestly apologizes to his former students, family, friends, previous constituents, and all others affected by the harm his actions have caused.” (If Hastert hadn’t gotten caught, he would not be “earnestly” apologizing.)

    Which brings us back to North Carolina, where a new right-wing law bars transgender people from using johns that don’t match the gender they had at birth. Various corporations, and Bruce Springsteen, have announced they will curb business in North Carolina until the bigotry is overturned. But Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said the other day that if the state loses money and jobs, fine — because this law is about “the worth of our children,” he need to recognize “the value of our children,” and if this law protects “just one child … from being molested, then it was worth it.”

    Two words: Dennis Hastert.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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