Jon Gambrell, Associated Press, April 14 2017:… Pahlavi said he had yet to meet with the Trump administration despite his letters. Another Iranian exile group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, previously paid a member of Trump’s Cabinet $50,000 for giving a speech . However, the MEK’s siding with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and its killing of Americans before the revolution, which the group now denies, makes it an unsuitable partner …
Iran’s long-exiled prince wants a revolution in age of Trump
By JON GAMBRELL
Apr. 09, 2017
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s exiled crown prince wants a revolution.
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah to rule before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has seen his profile rise in recent months following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who promises a harder line against the Shiite power.
Pahlavi’s calls for replacing clerical rule with a parliamentary monarchy, enshrining human rights and modernizing its state-run economy could prove palatable to both the West and Iran’s Sunni Gulf neighbors, who remain suspicious of Iran’s intentions amid its involvement in the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
But the Mideast is replete with cautionary tales about Western governments putting their faith in exiles long estranged from their homelands. Whether Pahlavi can galvanize nostalgia for the age of the Peacock Throne remains unseen.
“This regime is simply irreformable because the nature of it, its DNA, is such that it cannot,” Pahlavi told The Associated Press. “People have given up with the idea of reform and they think there has to be fundamental change. Now, how this change can occur is the big question.”
Pahlavi left Iran at age 17 for military flight school in the U.S., just before his cancer-stricken father Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned the throne for exile. The revolution followed, with the creation of the Islamic Republic, the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the sweeping away of the last vestiges of the American-backed monarchy.
Yet the Pahlavis and the age of the monarchy have retained their mystique in Iran, even as the majority of its 80 million people weren’t alive to experience it. Television period pieces have focused on their rule, including the recent state TV series “The Enigma of the Shah,” the most expensive series ever produced to air in the country. While incorporating romances or mobsters into the tales, all uniformly criticize the royal court.
But Pahlavi, 56, insists young Iranians increasingly look toward Iran’s past. He pointed to recent demonstrations at the tomb of the pre-Islamic King Cyrus the Great, which have been claimed by a variety of anti-government forces as a sign of unrest. Under his father’s secular and pro-Western rule, Iran experienced a rapid modernization program financed by oil revenues.
“If you look at the legacy that was left behind by both my father and my grandfather … it contrasts with this archaic, sort of backward, religiously rooted radical system that has been extremely repressive,” Pahlavi said.
Since the U.S. election, Pahlavi has given a growing number of media interviews, including with Breitbart, the far-right website once run by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Pahlavi also has sent letters to the Trump administration.
Gauging national sentiment toward restoring the monarchy in Iran is impossible, especially after the crackdown that followed the country’s disputed 2009 election. Iranian state media routinely refer to the Pahlavi monarchy as “despotic,” but there has been some reassessing of history in other quarters.
A book published last year, “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Last Days of Imperial Iran,” offered a revisionist view of the shah. While acknowledging the abuses of his feared SAVAK intelligence service and the corruption surrounding his rule, the book portrays him as a fatalist in an era of disappearing Mideast monarchies.
“The regime has repressed discussion of the Pahlavis for so long that it has had the opposite effect of making young Iranians inside the country curious about what they don’t know,” said historian Andrew Scott Cooper, the book’s author. “There’s an interesting generational divide going on here to where young Iranians are saying to their parents and grandparents, the same people who marched against the shah and Pahlavis, ‘Why did you get rid of that system and put this one in place?'”
He added: “The family name still retains a lot of magic, more than ever today among Iranians. How that translates practically into support for Reza as a credible alternative leader, I just don’t know.”
Asked how his envisioned peaceful revolution could play out in Iran, Pahlavi said it would need to begin with labor unions starting a nationwide strike. He said members of the hard-line Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization established to protect the clerical system, would be assured they wouldn’t be “all hung and shot.”
Most importantly, he said Western governments need to keep their distance and not threaten military action.
That’s an exceedingly optimistic vision, especially considering the amount of power the Guard and other hard-liners wield in Iran’s economy. It also largely ignores the concerns many in Iran have about Western meddling. Pahlavi’s father took power following a 1953 coup engineered by Britain and the U.S.
Pahlavi, who still resides in the U.S., said he hasn’t had any “side occupation” since 1979, and has received financial support from his family and “many Iranians who have supported the cause.”
“My focus right now is on liberating Iran, and I will find any means that I can, without compromising the national interests and independence, with anyone who is willing to give us a hand, whether it is the U.S. or the Saudis or the Israelis or whomever it is,” he said.
Pahlavi said he had yet to meet with the Trump administration despite his letters. Another Iranian exile group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, previously paid a member of Trump’s Cabinet $50,000 for giving a speech . However, the MEK’s siding with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and its killing of Americans before the revolution, which the group now denies, makes it an unsuitable partner, Pahlavi said.
“It’s pretty much a cult-type structure,” he said.
For now, Pahlavi said he looks forward to meeting with Trump and his administration. But he pins his hopes on Iran’s sense of history, something Cooper also acknowledged.
“For many Iranians, the revolution is unfinished business,” the author said.
Sitting Down with the MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, Rajavi cult, NCRI, …)
Iran Didban, March 15 2017:… Although the MEK had warned them, if they went to Albania, they’d be on their own, they set off for Albania, where some 3000 MEK members are settled. They went to the MEK camp, outside Tirana. Surprisingly, Shahin Ghobadi followed them to Albania, “to make sure things go smoothly here in Albania.” There, he was only allowed to “see what Shahin wanted” him to …
Sitting Down with the MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, Rajavi cult, NCRI, …)
Michael Ware meets with high-level representatives of the MEK, a group that wants to overthrow the Iranian government.
Michael Ware, an Australian journalist from National Geographic, investigated the Mujahedin-e Khalq that he met during the Iraq War. He describes MEK as “the living epitome of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
He met them in Iraq back in 2005 when he was a war correspondent. After the American invasion of Iraq, he went to the Camp Ashraf, the MEK’s headquarters, and shot a footage. There he interviewed some female members of the group and now after more than a decade he’s “chasing down the story of who and what the MEK is now. How many of the MEK are left? Where are they and who is supporting them today?” He adds that he also wants to find the girls he met back in 2005 at Camp Ashraf.
He started his journey from Paris, “chasing an Iranian spy ring across Western Europe.” He has tried a lot to “get in touch with someone, anyone inside the group who will talk” to him. After 6 days, he could finally arrange a meeting with Shahin Ghobadi, an MEK spokesman, and found his way into the MEK headquarters. He sat with MEK’s high-level representatives, Mohammad Mohaddesin, Shahin Ghobadi, Farzin Hashemi and Sarvenaz Chitsaz.
His main question from the MEK representatives was about the method they want to use to overthrow Iranian government. But they did not reveal too much and they’ve gone “a long way around to not answering my question.”
He asked for a meeting with the girls he met at Camp Ashraf and they said they are in Germany.
“A look I catch here or there lets me know they are still ready to fight for the revolution,” he concluded.
Ware and his crew flew to Berlin, hoping to meet with the girls. Shahin Ghobadi joined them in Berlin and took them to a symbolic hunger strike, which was “part of a broader MEK propaganda war to gain both new recruits and support for their cause.”
He believed that Germany was a diversion and the girls were not there.
Although the MEK had warned them, if they went to Albania, they’d be on their own, they set off for Albania, where some 3000 MEK members are settled.
They went to the MEK camp, outside Tirana. Surprisingly, Shahin Ghobadi followed them to Albania, “to make sure things go smoothly here in Albania.” There, he was only allowed to “see what Shahin wanted” him to see. “He opened one door and shut another.”
He finally met with two of the girls and sat with them, hearing their story.
In the end, Michael Ware said that certainly the MEK is “still very much devoted to its cause” and they will happily give their lives.
Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, NCRI) fugitive Mohamad Sharifi inadvertently filmed at Maryam Rajavi’s HQ
Iran Interlink, Paris, March 06 2017:… At the time Sharifi denied any involvement with the MEK, but left America before the case was brought to court and went to Iraq. He remains on the US’s wanted list. It may be of interest to American law enforcement agencies that Sharifi is now resident in France and living in the MEK headquarters. Charities such as this are part of an international network …
Mojahedin Khalq (MEK, NCRI) fugitive Mohamad Sharifi inadvertently filmed at Maryam Rajavi’s HQ in France
This short film by Michael Ware of National Geographic was taken at the headquarters of the Mojahedin Khalq Organisation (MEK) in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. In the film we hear four leading members of the Mojahedin Khalq discuss their aims with Ware and how they believe these can be achieved. They state both the ‘public’ stance of the MEK – they believe in peaceful change. At the same time they state the ‘internal’ ideological belief of the MEK – that regime change demands ‘resistance’ (MEK code for armed struggle).
Also at the meeting, although not taking an active part, is a man called Mohamad Sharifi. In 1986, Sharifi was Secretary-Treasurer of a charity called the Iran Relief Fund, Inc. After an investigation into the charity, Sharifi and others were summoned to court on charges of funding terrorism. According to the state prosecution service, the charity claimed the money it raised would “alleviate human suffering” among Iranian refugees. In reality all the money went to fund the MEK’s military bases in Iraq. Prosecutors described the Iran Relief Fund as a “subsidiary of a violent pro-terrorist group” the MEK.
At the time Sharifi denied any involvement with the MEK, but left America before the case was brought to court and went to Iraq. He remains on the US’s wanted list. It may be of interest to American law enforcement agencies that Sharifi is now resident in France and living in the MEK headquarters.
Charities such as this are part of an international network of money laundering entities which have been used for decades by the MEK to pass off money paid by sponsors. Money paid into the charities and associations is used to fund the speakers fees and trips of supporters such as Rudi Giuliani, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and many others.
Michael Ware discovers Mojahedin Khalq, MEK hasn’t abandoned belief in armed struggle
National Geographic, March 04 2017:… Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to …
Sitting Down with the MEK (Mojahedin Khalq, MKO, NCRI, PMOI …). Uncensored with Michael Ware
Michael Ware meets with high-level representatives of the MEK, a group that wants to overthrow the Iranian government.
[ Iran Interlink: Michael Ware discovers Mojahedin Khalq, MEK hasn’t abandoned belief in armed struggle
Leading MEK members squirm under the knowing gaze of Michael Ware. Watch the shifty looks and glances as the MEK representatives try to lie about their true intentions. They admit to wanting regime change, but claim to be pacifists. Ware asks ‘Why does a political organization still need to have a para-military organization?’ He then cleverly gets them to admit that their while their army is now defunct they do still believe in the use of violence to achieve their regime change goal. No wonder Ware looks puzzled.
Mohammad Mohaddesin – Head of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) foreign affairs section, Pentagon contact during the Saddam era.
Shahin Ghobadi – Frequently presented as the spokesman for the NCRI, Mojahedin Khalq and or Maryam Rajavi.
Farzin Hashemi – Long serving MEK member, frequently used as translator for Maryam Rajavi as well as behind closed door meetings, at one time the liaison officer with the Saudi agents and Mossad agents in Paris. Served as a commander of Saddam’s Private Army also alleged to be one of the torturers for Saddam’s Mokhaberat.
Sarvenaz Chitsaz – Head of the NCRI Women’s Committee.]
Mohamad Sharifi – Fugitive MEK operative
Also in you-tube:
link to one of the Mojahedin Khalq songs
advocating terror and killing Americans
(In Persian written and distributed after the Iranian Revolution)
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
, Huffington Post, July 08 2016:… Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? From whom is she hoping to garner support?Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s …
Maryam Rajavi — MEK Propaganda Queen — Advertises Her Services For Iran’s Enemies
Co-authored by Anne Khodabandeh
The Middle East is in turmoil. Deaths and destruction are a daily occurrence throughout the region. Families flee their homes in fear, forced into an uncertain future. No end is in sight. Yet into this calamitous scenario a slick, sophisticated terrorist recruiter’s advert has popped up which ISIS itself could learn from.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) website carries a glamorous advertising campaign for a Grand Gathering. Surrounded by glitzy pictures of flag-waving youth, the central focus of this gathering is ‘Our pledge: regime change’.
Well, we all know what that means. Don’t we? Apparently not. Because this advertising doesn’t reflect the destruction wrought in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen. Here is no promise of jihad and the caliphate. It looks very much like a carnival. Which is exactly what it is – a show. So, what is meant by the promise of regime change?
The first port of call is to understand that the NCRI is just another name for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) which was also known as the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA).
Back in 1994, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi tasked his wife Maryam to leave Iraq for America in order to regain political recognition of the Mojahedin Khalq as ‘the’ Iranian opposition which had been lost when he refused to abandon Saddam Hussein during the First Gulf war.
Refused entry to the USA as the leader of a terrorist entity Maryam instead took up residence in France as a refugee. But instead of meeting politicians to talk about how the MEK could overthrow the Iranian regime, she discovered she could simply create the illusion of support by paying both audience and speakers. She discovered a talent for dressing up, holding fancy dinner parties and talking about her cult ideology.
To create the appearance of a willing audience for her views, she recruited a rag-tag following of Iranian economic refugees who would happily turn up when paid for their services. She paid for feminists from North America, Europe and Scandinavia to visit Auvers-sur-Oise and attend dinner parties. She posed in her hijab to speak about her version of feminism to these western women; carefully spelling it out for them that they would never really understand what feminism is until they understood her husband Massoud Rajavi.
When Massoud recalled her to Iraq in 1997 she had spent a third of the total MEK budget and had no political support to show for it. She had lost around half the loyal MEK members who had defected whilst in Europe. With morale at an all-time low, Maryam was forced to retreat to Iraq with what remained of her personnel and leave the western bases in the hands of largely uneducated paid ‘supporters’.
When allied forces next invaded Iraq in 2003 Maryam Rajavi again fled to France. This time, as luck would have it, western politics was focused on curtailing Iran’s nuclear programme which it insisted was aimed at creating a nuclear weapon. The MEK’s services as propaganda experts were just what was needed, ensuring the MEK’s ostensible survival as an opposition group.
But in reality the MEK was already in terminal decline. Its fighting forces, disarmed in 2003, are currently being transferred from Iraq to Albania by the UNHCR to begin a process of de-radicalisation and reintegration back into normal society. Nobody expects veterans with an average age of sixty to wage the terrorism of thirty years ago. Disarmament also allowed American experts to investigate years of complaints about human rights and cultic abuses inside the MEK. As long as the MEK was being used to muddy the waters of the nuclear negotiations, such details could be glossed over. But since last year when agreement was reached, the MEK’s murky past can no longer be dismissed.
The main reason, of course, is that the new theme for challenging Iran in the international community is based on the country’s dismal human rights record. But Maryam Rajavi has her own well documented human rights abuse dossier to answer for. The MEK, under whatever name it is used, is simply the wrong tool to use to demonise Iran.
Beyond this, the MEK is not the popular opposition its own advertising claims it to be. The group is almost universally despised among Iranians both inside the country and in the diaspora. Not only did the MEK fight alongside Saddam Hussein’s army during the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq war, but the MEK’s anti-Iran role in the nuclear negotiations hit a nerve with most ordinary Iranians who regarded support for their country’s right to nuclear technology as an issue ofnationalism rather than politics.
Maryam Rajavi cannot get support from Iranians unless it is paid for. Nor can Maryam Rajavi deign to share a platform with any other Iranian opposition personality. So this year Maryam Rajavi will again do what she does best; pay audience and speakers alike to give the illusion of support.
So, back to the recent advertising campaign. Any publicity campaign will be successful if it is newsworthy. Maryam, however, simply churns out the same scenario ad infinitum. Starting with describing a terrible situation in Iran – based on news items that can be gleaned from any serious reporting outlet – she then proposes a ten-point plan for Iran, approved this year by Italian parliamentarians. And then she promises regime change.
Clearly this message is not aimed at Iranians. The clamour for regime change in Iran does not emanate from inside the country in spite of its many social, civic and political problems. Who then is Maryam Rajavi’s constituency? From whom is she hoping to garner support?
Many constituencies outside Iran wish fervently for its destruction. It is enlightening that Maryam Rajavi’s websites are home to a bizarre mixture of anti-Shia, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, items which reflect very closely the views of neocons, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Maryam Rajavi is not promising regime change, she is advertising her services as a propaganda queen.
Maryam Rajavi’s lobbyist convicted for child sexual abuse
BBC, April 11 2016:… All the victims “struggled and are still struggling” with what Hastert did to them, prosecutors argue. Hastert made them feel “alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity”, they say. Hastert, who retired in 2007 after serving as House Speaker for eight years, will be sentenced later this month for concealing the large sums of money he paid to Individual A to buy his silence. Between 2010 and 2012 he withdrew $750,000 in lump sums of $50,000 …
Maryam Rajavi’s lobbyist convicted for child sexual abuse
Dennis Hastert ‘paid hush money to cover up sex abuse’
Hastert has pleaded guilty to lying and breaking financial laws
Prosecutors are seeking a six-month jail sentence for disgraced former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is alleged to have paid hush money to cover up sex abuse.
Court documents say Hastert agreed to pay $3.5m (£2.5m) to a person he sexually abused when the victim was aged 14 and Hastert was working as a teacher and wrestling coach.
Prosecutors allege he abused five boys.
The 74-year-old has admitted lying and breaking financial laws.
The plea represents a dramatic fall for the former senior Republican politician, who has had his portrait removed from the House of Representatives in the US Congress.
The alleged abuse happened while Hastert was working in Yorkville, a suburb of Chicago, between 1965 and 1981. Three of the victims were wrestlers on a team he coached.
He cannot be charged with sexual abuse as the statute of limitations has expired in the cases.
One of the victims – referred to in court documents as Individual A – said Hastert had stayed with him in a motel room on the way back from a trip to a wrestling camp and touched him inappropriately.
Two of the others, aged 14 and 17, said Hastert had performed sex acts on them in the locker room at the high school in Yorkville.
All the victims “struggled and are still struggling” with what Hastert did to them, prosecutors argue. Hastert made them feel “alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity”, they say.
Dennis Hastert along side other American paid speakers in Mojahedin Khalq terrorists gathering in Paris
Hastert, who retired in 2007 after serving as House Speaker for eight years, will be sentenced later this month for concealing the large sums of money he paid to Individual A to buy his silence.
Between 2010 and 2012 he withdrew $750,000 in lump sums of $50,000 before learning of rules requiring banks to report large transactions.
After that he withdrew a further $952,000 in lump sums of less than $10,000 between 2012 and 2014.
He was able to pay Individual A $1.7m in payments of $100,000 before being questioned by the FBI in 2014 about his withdrawals.
One of the reasons he gave for the large withdrawals was that he was being blackmailed by someone making a false claim of sex abuse.
He agreed to let investigators record phone conversations he had with Individual A, but prosecutors said the “tone and comments” of Individual A in the conversations were “inconsistent with someone committing extortion”.
In a deal with prosecutors, he admitted the charge of “structuring and assisting in structuring currency transactions” by removing small sums of money to avoid the transactions being reported.
However, the charge of lying to FBI investigators is set to be dropped.
Defence lawyers want Hastert to be spared jail because they say he is suffering from ill health.
He is due to be sentenced on 27 April.
Dennis Hastert before the fall – Maryam Rajavi’s Villepinte speaker 2014
JOSH GERSTEIN, Poitico, June 12 2015:… Hastert, 73, was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he arranged nearly $1 million bank withdrawals to avoid filing disclosure reports, then lied to the FBI about it. The money was allegedly part of a $3.5 million payment Hastert agreed to make to an unidentified former male student over what was reportedly …
Dennis Hastert before the fall
Papers from the former House speaker’s congressional years suggest there was more than a touch of hypocrisy in his long record as a staunch social conservative.
Just before his election as House speaker in 1999, Dennis Hastert spearheaded legislation to prevent use of the Internet to encourage sexual acts with children. As he often did, Hastert invoked his personal history “as a father and a person who has dealt with public schools for a long time” to urge passage.
“We must continue to be proactive warding off pedophiles and other creeps who want to take advantage of our children,” Hastert said, according to an account of an Internet forum he held in his congressional district.
Known among his colleagues as “the Coach,” Hastert cultivated a nice-guy image and man-of-the-people persona during his years on Capitol Hill. But papers from Hastert’s congressional years suggest that there was more than a touch of hypocrisy in Hastert’s long record as a staunch social conservative.
Long after he’d become a powerful figure on Capitol Hill, Hastert reflected often about the values and strategy he learned in 16 years teaching at Yorkville High School in Illinois. He never gave a hint that there was a darker side to his early career as a teacher, coach and Explorer Scout leader, a picture that has begun to emerge since his May 28 indictment on federal charges.
“I’m sure you can understand how important wrestling is for the development of adolescents in their crucial high school years,” he wrote in a 2005 letter to a retiring Maryland wrestling coach. “And in my role as Speaker of the House, I still employ many of my old coaching techniques while trying to achieve our goals here on Capitol Hill.”
Hastert, 73, was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he arranged nearly $1 million bank withdrawals to avoid filing disclosure reports, then lied to the FBI about it. The money was allegedly part of a $3.5 million payment Hastert agreed to make to an unidentified former male student over what was reportedly past sexual misconduct. The sister of another former Hastert student, who died two decades ago — Steve Reinboldt — has accused Hastert of victimizing her brother but said the family never sought money.
Hastert’s extensive collection of personal papers and memorabilia, housed at Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, offers few clues about his relationships with former students or insights into any of the ethical scandals that rocked the House during his tenure as the chamber’s longest-serving Republican speaker. A Wheaton archivist gave POLITICO permission to review the files but asked that extensive document use be approved by Hastert’s former chief of staff, Scott Palmer. Palmer did not return phone calls or emails.
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left.
Hastert co-sponsored a successful effort to impose stiff federal criminal penalties for Web-based pedophiles, a cause that he said was inspired by a mother’s visit to his Batavia district office. The woman told Hastert that her 9-year-old daughter had been targeted on the Internet by a sexual predator, creating such fear that the family moved to a city in Hastert’s district. Hastert issued a concerned letter to constituents to flag the dangers.
“This bill sends a strong message to the most heinous of criminals who prey upon our children — you will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Hastert said at the time.
Hastert billed himself as a social conservative from his earliest days in the Illinois Legislature, when he sided with the Moral Majority to fight a bill barring discrimination against gays.
The Hastert congressional files show that his influence escalated dramatically with his selection as speaker. Republican members wrote him to try to schedule floor debates and appealed to him for seats on their favorite committees. His mailbox was filled with requests from members like former former Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe who wanted re-appointment to the board that supervised the House page program, and Florida Rep. Mark Foley, who wanted to join a parliamentary exchange with NATO countries.
“The need to represent U.S. interests and work to strengthen our ties with NATO is more pressing now than ever before,” Foley, from West Palm Beach, wrote to Hastert in December 2004.
Two years later, Foley led Hastert into one of the biggest scandals of his career. Foley was accused in 2006 of sending sexually explicit text messages to male teenagers in the House page program and showing up inebriated at the page dormitory. Hastert’s office was criticized for failing to act promptly when Foley’s behavior was first reported. The House page program never recovered and was disbanded in 2011. There appear to be no hints of that scandal in Hastert’s papers.
Throughout his congressional years, Hastert traveled widely on taxpayer-funded congressional delegations with staff and other members, leading CODELS to Russia, Korea, Israel and Colombia. He collected gifts — a sterling silver clock from 10 Downing Street, an etching from Russia — and eventually donated them to the archives, along with boxes of awards from groups like the National Pork Producers Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
After resigning in 2007 to pursue a lobbying career, Hastert again ventured far from his Plano, Illinois, home with adventures in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Some of the travel and push for greater income came in 2010, when federal prosecutors contend the former speaker struck a deal to pay an acquaintance $3.5 million to keep quiet about Hastert’s “past misconduct.”
Because of the federal charges, Hastert’s early dealings with legal and judicial figures are getting special scrutiny. The federal judge assigned to Hastert’s criminal case, Thomas Durkin, formally recused himself Tuesday because of perceptions about his ties to the former speaker and others involved in the case. However, the judge said he would not ultimately step aside if both the prosecution and defense agree he should continue.
At Hastert’s arraignment, Durkin detailed his work with Hastert’s son Ethan at a Chicago-based law firm and $1,500 in donations made to the former speaker’s reelection campaigns over a decade ago. Durkin also noted that his brother Jim is the Republican minority leader of the Illinois House.
Hastert’s archival files reveal yet another connection: Jim Durkin once lobbied Hastert to block proposed federal legislation that would have ended a program offering prosecutors a public-service forgiveness for student debt. “This is not a time in which government should be eliminating resources but rather investing resources in a system whose integrity has been challenged,” Jim Durkin wrote to Hastert in 2000.
If the current judge gives up Hastert’s case, the former speaker’s files show ties to other judges who might take it over.
In a 2005 thank-you note, then-Illinois Solicitor General Gary Feinerman said he was “deeply grateful” to Hastert for his support in a potential nomination for a federal judgeship in Chicago. Feinerman didn’t make it to the bench at that time but got the nod from President Barack Obama in 2009 and was confirmed to the lifetime post the next year. (Judge Durkin acknowledged in court Tuesday that he’d sought similar help from Hastert’s office to win his appointment.)
The Hastert records also show federal judges in Illinois reaching out to him for help funding courthouse renovations and increased security after the 2005 murders of the husband and mother of U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lefkow. One such plea came from the chief district court judge in Chicago at the time, Charles Kocoras, who asked Hastert to give more resources to the U.S. Marshals Service for security systems for judges’ homes and other security measures.
Hastert’s files don’t appear to contain a reply. Kocoras is now overseeing a federal civil lawsuit filed against the former speaker by an ex-business partner, David John, who claims Hastert used taxpayer funds to advance his lobbying career. Kocoras has dismissed the case twice but another attempt to refile the suit is pending.
Hastert’s files also show that in 2005, Hastert met with top leaders of the FBI in Chicago to urge them to combat money laundering in connection with drug trafficking. Hastert now stands charged with a type of money-laundering offense, known as structuring, for breaking nearly $1 million in cash withdrawals into increments of less than $10,000 in order to avoid federal reporting requirements.
In the main, though, the records illustrate the rise of an Illinois farm boy to a government leader who mingled with presidents and foreign potentates. The files also show how ordinary folk from Illinois— including some former students — streamed into Hastert’s Capitol Hill office and signed the guest register.
The archives include notes of thanks and friendship from nearly every former U.S. president alive during Hastert’s tenure as speaker. “I am so very proud of your leadership,” George H.W. Bush wrote on a Walker’s Point card in 2001, adding a “#41” to his signature.
“Thanks for coming to the ranch,” President-Elect George W. Bush wrote in December 2000. “Together we can make a real difference for our country.”
President Bill Clinton penned a handwritten thank-you note to Hastert for coming along on a trip to South America. “The day in Colombia was great,” Clinton wrote in 2000.
A 1999 note from former President Jimmy Carter said he and wife Rosalynn enjoyed Hastert’s appearance on a PBS show and “appreciate the difficulty of your job and also the way you are approaching your duties.”
There are personal notes from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A letter from singer Bono declined an invite to a St. Patrick’s Day event but called a Hastert-hosted party at the 2004 GOP convention “hugely memorable.”
Hastert’s 2005 surgery to remove kidney stones brought well wishes from politicians of all stripes. “I don’t know what brings those on — raising hell with Democrats?” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joked.
The papers also hint at Hastert’s religious devotion. One file includes a copy of music from a church hymnal and, on the opposite side, an extremely ornate cross hand-drawn in ink.
In the lower right hand corner, the sketch is signed: “Dennis Hastert.”
Tarini Parti contributed to this report.