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Federal Government Wed Jun 10 2015

Hastert's Troubles Mount

Dennis Hastert, a former Republican Congressman from Illinois and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, appeared in federal court on Tuesday to enter pleas of not guilty to charges that he violated banking laws and lied to the FBI in an effort to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of a high school student some 45 years ago.

Meanwhile, a previously under-reported Hastert scandal is coming into focus. It involves FBI wiretaps of the Turkish Consulate in Chicago, Hastert's lucrative lobbying career, possible secretive large scale cash bribes when he was House Speaker, and his blatant betrayal of the Armenian people and the Armenian-American community. There are 40,000 Armenians in Chicago and another 10,000 throughout Illinois.

In an interview with me on Sunday, Harut Sassounian, a writer, Armenian community activist and publisher of The California Courier newspaper, called for a federal investigation into Hastert's highly-paid lobbying activities on behalf of the Republic of Turkey. Hastert's work for Turkey may have begun when Hastert was still House Speaker and was being paid by American taxpayers.

Sassounian, who is also an advisory board member of the Armenian National Committee - Western Region, has been covering U.S. Representative Dennis Hastert since 1984 when Hastert supported a congressional resolution recognizing the killing of 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide carried out by the Ottoman government in Turkey.

As Sassounian wrote in his column on June 2, 2015 in The California Courier, "the Armenian genocide resolution remained stalled in Congress until August 2000, when then Speaker Hastert met with Armenian community leaders in Glendale, California. At the meeting Hastert pledged to bring the resolution to a vote despite President Bill Clinton's vehement objections.

"However on October 19, 2000, moments before the genocide resolution was to be voted on, Speaker Hastert yanked the measure from consideration saying that President Clinton requested such action in a letter raising 'grave national security concerns.'" Sassounian pointed out that Hastert voted for the impeachment of Clinton and had fiercely opposed almost every issue backed by the President.

In his column and in his conversation with me, Sassounian questioned if "there could have been a sinister reason why Hastert had a sudden change of heart."

A lengthy article in the September 2005 issue of Vanity Fair magazine entitled "An Inconvenient Patriot" contains some interesting circumstantial evidence. The article, written by contributing editor David Ross, suggests that Hastert may have been bribed to change his position on the Armenian resolution. A Hastert spokesperson denied the allegations and said the letter from President Clinton was the reason Hastert withdrew the resolution.

The article is primarily about the FBI's silencing and firing of a young Turkish-American translator, Sibel Edmonds. Now, she is an acclaimed book author, editor of the online Boiling Frogs Post, and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. com She was fired in March 2002 after she challenged her supervisor and a co-worker who failed to thoroughly investigate her concerns about wiretapped discussions suggesting that individuals associated with the Turkish Consulate in Chicago and Washington were bribing or co-opting FBI employees and U.S. officials.

Sassounian's column summarized the part of the Vanity Fair article that dealt with Hastert. He wrote, "Edmonds had reviewed wiretaps of Turkish phone calls claiming that Speaker Hastert's price to withdraw the Armenian Genocide resolution would be at least $500,000. The FBI overheard Turkish speakers boasting that they 'arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert's campaign funds in small checks' because contributions less than $200 do not have to be itemized in public filings."

Vanity Fair also examined Hastert's campaign financing reports. The magazine found that "between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000." According to Vanity Fair that total was far higher than all other congressmen for the same time period except for Clay Shaw, of Florida, who received $552,000 in un-itemized donations. The third highest was only $265,000.

Hastert's visits to Turkey in 2002 and 2004 were funded by the Turkish-US Business Council, according to Sassounian. He also wrote that six months after leaving the House, "Hastert began to reap the benefits of serving Turkish interests by joining the firm of Dickstein Shapiro as a lobbyist representing the Turkish government, among other clients. He worked jointly with former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, sometimes travelling together to Turkey, and splitting millions of dollars in lucrative lobbying fees.

"A full investigation should now be conducted of all allegations against Hastert that have been ignored for far too long," Sassounian said. "The American public needs to know if he were bribed, or even worse, blackmailed by Turkish entities during his tenure as Speaker, the third most powerful office in Washington after the President and Vice President."

 
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