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GOP Aide Resigns Amid Foley Scandal

A congressional aide who counseled Rep. Mark Foley to resign last week amid the House page scandal submitted his own resignation on Wednesday, as the investigation intensified into a scandal rocking Republicans five weeks before midterm elections.

"I never attempted to prevent any inquiries or investigation," the aide, Kirk Fordham, said in a statement.

Fordham told The Associated Press he alerted House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office two years ago about Foley's conduct. Fordham said when he was told about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward pages, he had "more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene."

The conversations took place long before the e-mail scandal broke, Fordham said, and at least a year earlier than members of the House GOP leadership have acknowledged.

Fordham was once Foley's chief of staff. At the time of his resignation he had been serving in the same capacity for Rep. Tom Reynolds, a member of the GOP leadership who has struggled to avoid political damage in the scandal's fallout.

"It is clear the Democrats are intent on making me a political issue in my boss's race, and I will not let them do so," Fordham said.

Republicans have been struggling to put the scandal behind them, but another member of the leadership, Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, said pointedly during the day he would have handled the entire matter differently than Hastert did, had he known about it.

"I think I could have given some good advice here, which is you have to be curious, you have to ask all the questions you can think of," Blunt said. "You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to."

Foley resigned last week after he was reported to have sent salacious electronic messages to teenage male pages. He has checked into an undisclosed facility for treatment of alcoholism, leaving behind a mushrooming political scandal and legal investigation.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department ordered House officials to "preserve all records" related to Foley's electronic correspondence with teenagers.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor for the District of Columbia sought protection of the records in a three-page letter to House counsel Geraldine Gennet, according to a Justice official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such letters often are followed by search warrants and subpoenas, and signal that investigators are moving closer to a criminal investigation.

At the same time, FBI agents have begun interviewing participants in the House page program, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The official declined to say whether the interviews were limited to current pages or included former pages.

Meanwhile, Hastert worked to hold onto his job as the GOP rank and file worried that the pre-election drip, drip of damaging political news isn't over yet.

Hastert said he first heard details of the Foley matter last Friday when the story was breaking. The No. 2 House Republican, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, and Reynolds, the House GOP campaign chair, said they had spoken with Hastert about a complaint concerning a former page from Louisiana last spring after being told about it by Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., who had sponsored the teen.

Hastert "has gotten himself into a real jam here," says CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.

"The other members of his leadership team are saying it was his fault. They're just saying, 'Look, it wasn't me. I told him. He didn't do anything about it.' You have at least three members of the leadership saying that now," Schieffer told the Early Show on Wednesday.

Schieffer says the scandal puts the Republican majority "in doubt as we head into these November elections. If I were a betting man, I would now bet that the Republicans are going to lose the House. Not by very much, but I think this may be just the thing to give the Democrats control of the House. This is really serious business for the Republicans right now."

Hastert sought to blame Democrats for leaking sexually explicit computer instant messages between Foley and former pages from 2003.

"Democrats have ... put this thing forward to try to block us," Hastert told Limbaugh.

"It's absolutely not true," countered House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

ABC News, which first reported on initial online exchanges from Foley that were questionable but not graphic, says sexually explicit messages reported last Friday were provided by former pages after its initial report Thursday.

ABC News said Tuesday it had obtained additional instant messages.

"Can I have a good kiss goodnight," Foley was said to have messaged in one. A boy responded with cyber symbols and "kiss."

In another message, Foley invited the teenager to his Capitol Hill town house "for a few drinks" even though he knew the boy was under the legal drinking age. "We may need to drink at my house so we dont get busted," Foley messaged.

Foley's attorney, David Roth, said at a news conference in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday that he had no reason to believe that Foley "ever had teenage boys at his house to have alcohol."

Roth said Foley, 52, had himself been molested between the ages of 13 and 15 by a clergyman but added that Foley "does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate e-mails" and instant messages. "He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct."

Roth insisted Foley never had had sexual contact with a minor. He said the former Florida congressman, who had kept his sexual orientation private, wanted people now to know that he is gay.

The House ethics committee scheduled its first meeting on Foley's actions for Thursday, in closed session. The House voted last Friday to direct the ethics panel to inquire into the matter.