(Washington, DC) ABC News appears to be sticking by its story that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is "in the mix" of politicians being investigated by the Justice Department in the bribery scandal related to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Hastert, issued the following statement regarding the ABC Nightly News story that aired last night:
"The ABC News report is absolutely untrue. As confirmed by the Justice Department, 'Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.' We are demanding a full retraction of the ABC News story. The Speaker’s earlier statement issued today to ABC News accurately reflects the facts regarding this matter."
ABC has now posted a link to a second DOJ statement by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty:
"With regard to reports suggesting that the Speaker of the House is under investigation or 'in the mix,' as stated by ABC News, I reconfirm, as stated by the Department earlier this evening, that these reports are untrue."
As I see it, several possibilities exist:
1. ABC News flat out got the story wrong;
2. The Justice Department plans to investigate Hastert, but has not started yet;
3. The statement by ABC and the DOJ may contain some rhetorical spin that needs further dissection to get at the truth of the matter.
ABC’s sources said that the denial by the Justice Department was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal "target" or "subject" of the investigation.
"Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation," one federal official told ABC.