What House Speaker Dennis Hastert Thinks Is Behind ABC Report

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Political Push Back?

House speaker Dennis Hastert says the ABC News story claiming he is "in the mix" of the federal investigation into Jack Abramoff could be political push back for his criticism of the FBI raid on Congressman William Jefferson's office.

Hastert told WGN radio that the story was leaked, "to try to intimidate people, and we're just not going to be intimidated"... calling it an attempt to "smokescreen some of the separation of powers stuff that we're doing."

Hastert says the story's release is part of an "interesting sequence of events," adding, "I don't know if this leak was coincidence or not ... somebody has to connect the dots." And Hastert's chief of staff called the story, "a brushback pitch," to keep the speaker from fighting what he's called the Justice Department's unconstitutional search and seizure at a congressional office.

Capitol Hill Aggression?

Meanwhile, the federal investigation into a possible congressional leak of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program is targeting House members — further angering some in Congress who say the Justice Department has become increasingly aggressive on Capitol Hill.

The FBI is seeking interviews with party leaders and senior members of the House intelligence committee who were briefed on the program before it was disclosed in the New York Times last year.

But the committee's top Democrat, Jane Harman, tells Roll Call, "there is no credible claim that anyone in congress leaked anything," adding, "I urge the Justice Department to carefully consider separation of powers issues and the appearance of intimidation before proceeding any further."

Economic Good News

The Commerce Department has revised its estimate on U.S. economic growth in the first quarter of 2006, from 4.8 percent to 5.3 percent — more than triple the 1.7 percent recorded during the first quarter of 2005. That estimate marks the fastest growth rate in two-and-a-half years.

The AP reported that the economy "dashed ahead" in the year's opening quarter, and the Financial Times called it a blistering pace, but financial reporters at Bloomberg thought otherwise.

The news service led its story by calling the growth "slower than forecast and reflecting less momentum in consumer and corporate spending," and headlined the report, "Growth may slow from 5.3 percent annual rate."

Familiar Scapegoat

Iran has shut down a state-run newspaper and detained its chief editor and cartoonist for publishing a cartoon that incited riots by the country's minority Azeri population, but Iranian officials are placing the blame for the violence at the feet of the United States.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. and its allies of "hatching plots... to provoke divisions and differences" among the Iranian people.

And an Iranian prosecutor says, "it is clear that the evil hands of foreigners are making efforts to provoke tribal, ethnic, and religious differences" in the case.

—FOX News Channel's Aaron Bruns contributed to this report.