WASHINGTON – Ethics investigators on Thursday heard from the GOP aide once in charge of the House page program about how he handled cases of ex-Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior toward the teenage errand-runners.
The No. 2 House leader, Majority Leader John Boehner, also testified, repeating his public statements that he discussed with Speaker Dennis Hastert the "overly friendly" e-mails from Foley to a former male page.
"I made myself clear on the record for the last three weeks, and I told the ethics committee today the same thing that I've told many of you," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.
His appearance came after the former House clerk, Jeff Trandahl, explained how he handled incidents involving Foley and whether he alerted top House GOP staff aides about them.
Trandahl's lawyer said Trandahl "has cooperated fully" with the investigations by the FBI and the House ethics committee. "He answered every question asked of him," lawyer Cono Namorato said in a statement.
Namorato said Trandahl would not comment while the investigation continues. He did not return messages left for comment beyond his prepared statement.
Boehner would not say what he specifically told the committee in private. But Boehner publicly has quoted Hastert as telling him the complaint about Foley "had been taken care of." Hastert, R-Ill., has said he does not recall the conversation with Boehner.
Trandahl had direct responsibility for the page program and was on the five-member oversight board. He was alerted to an earlier instance in 2001 or 2002 involving Foley's inappropriate e-mails to a former page sponsored by Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., and was apprised of others.
At least two other incidents are known to be under investigation: last fall's episode involving the Louisiana page and an earlier one in which Foley reportedly tried to enter the page dorm while he was drunk.
No one, however, has claimed knowledge of the sexually graphic e-mails sent in 2003 that prompted Foley to resign from Congress on Sept. 29 when confronted with copies of them by ABC News.
Of special concern to the ethics panel is who was aware of the Foley problem and whether enough was done to end his inappropriate contacts with pages.
The known incidents were handled discreetly by Trandahl, other GOP staff aides and a few lawmakers. They were not brought to the attention of the page oversight board or the ethics committee.
Foley's former top aide, Kirk Fordham, testified before the ethics panel last week and has said he had meetings and "one more than one conversation" with senior GOP leadership aides about Foley's inappropriate behavior. That drew a quick denial from Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer. He has not commented since and has yet to appear before investigators.
Trandahl, as one of the chamber's chief administrators, was in frequent contact with Hastert's office, including the speaker's counsel Ted Van Der Meid and Palmer about the page program and other House business. Trandahl was appointed to his post by Hastert.
Hastert's office has produced a detailed account of the 2005 incident, involving "over friendly" e-mails to a former page sponsored by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La. But the speaker's office has not commented on the page dorm incident or the earlier episode involving the e-mails to an Arizona teenager.
Palmer has denied Fordham's claim that he warned Palmer and other top GOP aides several years ago of Foley's inappropriate contact with pages and asked them to intervene.
Foley, 52, has said through his lawyer that he is alcoholic, gay and had been molested as a boy by a clergyman. On Thursday, a priest acknowledged he was naked in saunas with Foley decades ago when Foley was a boy in Florida. The priest denied that the two had sex.
The Rev. Anthony Mercieca, 69, speaking from his home on the Maltese island of Gozo, said a report in a Florida newspaper about their encounters was "exaggerated."
A story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune described several encounters in the 1960s that the priest said Foley might perceive as sexually inappropriate.