Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was charged on Thursday with lying to the F.B.I. and structuring cash withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements.
Mr. Hastert, 73, a longtime Republican leader who served as speaker from 1999 until 2007 and now works as a lobbyist in Washington, was providing money to an unnamed person in order to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against that person, according to a federal indictment issued by the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The indictment says that Mr. Hastert, who was once a high school teacher and wrestling coach in a small Illinois town, paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014.
Since 2012, the indictment alleges, Mr. Hastert had begun structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 from various accounts to avoid bank reporting requirements as he made the payments. And in late 2014, Mr. Hastert told federal agents that he was not paying anyone with the money, but was keeping the withdrawals for himself. “Yeah,” the indictment quotes Mr. Hastert as telling the agents. “I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”According to the indictment, he told the agents that he was making the withdrawals to store the cash “because he did not feel safe with the banking system.”
In 1999, Mr. Hastert, who was then a six-term congressman from Illinois, was catapulted to the speaker’s post after Newt Gingrich stepped down after a contentious national election marked by the wounds that the House inflicted on itself during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. The Republicans’ first choice to succeed Mr. Gingrich, Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, gave up the position before he ever assumed it, acknowledging that he had carried on adulterous affairs. Mr. Hastert was chosen because of his reputation among his Republican colleagues as a conciliator.
He left Congress in November 2007.