Blackmail? Reading between the lines of Hastert's indictment

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Blackmail? Reading Between the Lines of Hastert's Indictment

Citing unnamed sources, the Los Angeles Times is now reporting Hastert tried to cover up sexual misconduct related to his time as a high school teacher and wrestling coach -- and according to NBC, Hastert had a sexual relationship with a male student and then paid him off to conceal the relationship.

Based on recent headlines, the apparent takeaway is that the former Republican House speaker was indicted for paying hush money. But "hush money" on its own isn't considered a crime. It's not illegal to pay someone to keep your secret.

More likely, the indictment wasn't due to the pay-up, but rather, the cover-up.

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Blackmail? Reading between the lines of Hastert's indictment
Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves after a guilty plea at Dirksen U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 15: Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) walks through Statuary Hall on his way to the House floor to make his farewell address to Congress November 15, 2007 in Washington, DC. He announced his resignation today and said he will leave office before the end of December. Hastert, 65, announced in August he would not seek reelection in 2008. Hastert was the longest-serving Republican speaker in U.S. history, and the first speaker since 1955 to remain in Congress after losing the speakership. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Dennis Hastert, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, attends the annual meeting of the Iranian resistance, presided over by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Villepinte, near Paris, on June 22, 2013. Some 500 parliamentarians from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Arab countries were expected to join the gathering on June 22, one week after Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric, was declared winner of Iran's presidential election, ending an eight-year conservative grip on the Islamic republic's administration under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Maryam Rajavi, president of the NCRI, denounced the 'sham election' in Iran and called on the West to stand firm with respect to Hassan Rohani, 'responsible for the machine or repression'. AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - JULY 28: Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (C) is joined by current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) during a ceremony unveiling Hastert's portrati at the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hastert is the longest serving Republican speaker to date, holding the post from 1999-2007. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Authorities accuse Hastert of illegally structuring cash withdrawals from the bank and then lying to the FBI when asked about it.

The seven-page indictment details a series of alleged meetings between Hastert and someone referred to only as Individual A. Hastert allegedly agreed to pay Individual A $3.5 million "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A." Though the indictment never uses the word, it sounds a lot like blackmail, which is a criminal offense.

In 2009, David Letterman clued in the authorities when a TV news producer tried blackmailing him for $2 million — threatening to expose Letterman's sexual relationships with female staffers. Rather than forking up the money, the late-night host admitted to everything on national TV.

"I had to tell them all the creepy things that I have done," Letterman told his audience in 2009.

Hastert's situation feels more like Letterman's in reverse. It appears as though Individual A, the potential blackmailer, is the one cooperating with authorities.

"Likely the way they've written the indictment where it says 'Individual A' means 'Individual A' is likely to cooperate with the FBI at some point in the investigation. So I think there is more story to be told here," former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told CNN.

If and when we'll get more of the story remains to be seen. Still no word from Hastert himself.

Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (IL) - Profile | InsideGov

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