Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert might be about to learn an old political lesson: It's the coverup that will do you in. Federal prosecutors today charged the 73-year-old Illinois Republican with making shady bank withdrawals and lying to the FBI, and the Chicago Tribune provides this tantalizing detail: The charges allege that he needed the money because he had "agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance." The feds aren't saying what Hastert wanted his acquaintance—identified only as "Individual A"—to keep quiet about, only that it involved "past misconduct" by Hastert, reports CNN. The Tribune calls the indictment "stunning."
The FBI became suspicious when Hastert made withdrawals totaling $1.7 million from various bank accounts in recent years. They say he made the withdrawals in such a way to skirt rules requiring banks to report transactions of more than $10,000. Last December, "Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash" when questioned by the FBI, the prosecutor's statement asserts, according to the AP. Hastert, a relative unknown when chosen to succeed Newt Gingrich, served as speaker for eight years before retiring from office in 2008. Most stories are illustrating his small-town roots by noting that he once worked as a high school teacher and wrestling coach. He's been working as a lobbyist since leaving office. (Read more Dennis Hastert stories.)