Watch CBS News

Hastert Mentor: Federal Indictment 'Baffled Me Entirely'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A friend and political mentor of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was speaking up for the indicted lawmaker on Friday, a day after Hastert was accused of lying to the FBI, and trying to hide apparent hush money payments.

Former Kendall County Republican Party chairman Dallas Ingemunson got Hastert into politics in 1981, helping him be selected to fill a vacancy in the Illinois House. He said any vetting of Hastert before his appointment would not have included asking him if there were any skeletons in his closet.

"I never asked him, but I never had any reason to do so. I've known him … since he's been in Yorkville, I've known all his friends. There's never been any suspicion of any problems," he said.


Hastert, 73, allegedly paid about $1.7 million in cash to a longtime acquaintance – identified as Individual A in the indictment – beginning in 2010, to conceal misconduct that occurred years earlier.

According to the indictment, Individual A lives in Hastert's hometown of Yorkville, and has known him most of Individual A's life. Hastert allagedly met with and then agreed to provide that acquaintance $3.5 million "in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against" that person, according to federal prosecutors.

Hastert has been accused of structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000.He was charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency Transaction Reports and making a false statement to the FBI about the transactions, according to an indictment returned by a federal grand jury.

Ingemunson said he's dismayed by the charges against Hastert, and said he can't believe the former lawmaker is guilty of anything. He said no one has a more firm conviction of right or wrong than Hastert.

"It's baffled me entirely. I have no idea. I mean, I would think that if there had been something happening around Yorkville, I would have heard some hint of it. I've never heard a word," he said.

Ingemunson said he tried calling Hastert on Thursday, but couldn't get through.

"If he asks, I'm willing to help him, but I don't know what it is that I can do," he said.

Federal prosecutors have said the next step in the case is for a federal judge to schedule a hearing to set Hastert's bond, and for him to enter a plea. There was no comment to the question of whether Hastert might face additional charges.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.