Left: Brian Ross of ABC News
Transcript of the ABC News report claiming that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is "in the mix" of politicians being investigated in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal.
VARGAS: Good evening. We begin with a major development in a Washington bribery scandal.
Tonight, sources tell ABC NEWS the case involving convicted lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, has led FBI investigators to some of the most powerful members of congress, namely the man, second in line for the presidency, after the vice president.
This is a story with potentially major political implications. And our chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, joins us with his exclusive report. Brian...
ROSS: Elizabeth, federal officials tell us the bribery investigation now includes the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, based on the testimony from convicted lobbyists.
Justice Department officials describe the 64-year-old Illinois Republican as very much in the mix of the corruption investigation.
Part of the investigation is said to involve a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the secretary of the interior, to block a casino on an indian reservation that would have competed wit the other tribes.
The other tribes were represented by Jack Abramoff, who has reportedly disclosed his deals with Hastert. The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for hastert, at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.
Hastert denied any unlawful connection, and said he would donate to charity, any campaign contributions he received from Abramoff or his clients. This week, following the FBI raid of another congressman under investigation, testimony William Jefferson of Louisiana, Hastert was outspoken in his criticism of the FBI.
HASTERT: We are not trying to protect any individual. But we want to protect the house, as far as a constitution.
ROSS: A spokesman for Hastert said the speaker was unaware he was the subject of any investigation. And there had been no requests for documents. The spokesman said Hastert had a long line of opposing casinos. This is at the very beginning. The allegations could prove unfounded. But what's clear from all this, is the FBI intends to take this case as far as it goes.
VARGAS: George Stephanopoulos joins us now. The political implications if Speaker Hastert is now a target of the FBI investigation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Potentially seismic, Elizabeth. And it is going to depend on the facts and whether prosecutors can demonstrate a quid pro quo, that Hastert took that official action, in return for the campaign contribution. As Brian said, he has denied that. But if he can prove that, they can get an indictment, this would be a political earthquake.
VARGAS: That's a big 'if'. This is the find of charge that's exceedingly difficult to prove.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Exactly right. And it's been, frankly, common practice in Washington. There's 33 members of congress who wrote letters to the interior secretary and got campaign contributions from Jack Abramoff. If Hastert is facing that kind of scrutiny, they may, too. A lot of heads could roll.
End of tanscript