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Report: Foley allegedly tried to meet page

Story Highlights

• IMs suggest Foley tried to arrange dinner with page, ABC News reports
• Hastert says no GOP House leaders saw Foley's instant messages
• Florida GOP picks candidate to replace Foley
• Foley enters alcoholism treatment center
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republican leaders struggled Monday to contain the political fallout as more sexually charged electronic banter between Rep. Mark Foley and teenage pages emerged.

A "completely devastated" Foley was undergoing treatment for alcoholism and mental illness, his lawyer said.

While conceding that Foley had inappropriate communications with pages and former pages, attorney David Roth said Foley had "never, ever had an inappropriate sexual contact with a minor in his life."

"He is absolutely, positively not a pedophile," Roth said. "He is apologetic for the communications that he made while under the influence of alcohol." (Watch how and when House leaders found out the allegations -- 2:05)

Roth described Foley as "extremely depressed" and said he "is contrite, remorseful and devastated by the harm that his actions have caused to others." (Watch Roth describe how his client is "devastated" -- 2:30) Video

Friends, family members and Washington political insiders contacted by CNN, including Foley's brother-in-law, said they had seen no indication that he had a drinking problem. But Roth told reporters people around Foley may not have known about it because "he had two lives with regard to his alcohol consumption."

The FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the House Ethics Committee are now investigating Foley's conduct, and the inquiries could include whether there was any attempt to cover it up.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert Monday denied that anyone in the GOP leadership knew about sexually explicit instant messages Foley allegedly exchanged with former male pages in 2003.

But that assertion didn't satisfy House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who demanded that Republican leaders be questioned under oath about what they knew of Foley's conduct.

New messages

Instant messages released by ABC News Monday and attributed to Foley suggest he tried to arrange a meeting with a teenage page in Washington.

CNN cannot verify whether the instant message comments reported by ABC actually came from the congressman.

According to ABC News, Foley, using the instant messenger user name "Maf54," repeatedly tried to meet the teen.

In one alleged instant message exchange, Foley tried to arrange a dinner with the page:

Maf54: I miss you lots since san diego.
Teen: ya I cant wait til dc
Maf54: :)
Teen: did you pick a night for dinner
Maf54: not yet...but likely Friday
Teen: ok...ill plan for Friday then
Maf54: that will be fun

Instant messages previously released by ABC News involved the same Maf54 username.

In another exchange released Monday, the page apparently was uncomfortable with Foley's alleged advances:

Maf54: I want to see you
Teen: Like I said not til feb...then we will go to dinner
Maf54: and then what happens
Teen: we eat...we drink...who knows...hang out...late into the night
Maf54: and
Teen: I dunno
Maf54: dunno what
Teen: hmmm I have the feeling that you are fishing not sure what I would be comfortable with...we'll see

Foley, a six-term congressman, was co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus. (Watch how politics inspired Foley at age 6 -- 2:44)

Replacement chosen

A leading activist in the conservative movement, Richard Viguerie, issued a statement calling for the immediate resignation of any House Republican leaders who knew about Foley's suggestive communications but took no action.

"Anyone who covers up such behavior should have the full wrath of the authorities and of the public fall upon them," Viguerie said.

Meanwhile, Florida GOP leaders Monday picked state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart to replace Foley as the party's candidate for the 16th District House seat in the November 7 election.

However, with the election only five weeks away, Foley's name will remain on the ballot, which means voters in the district will have to cast their ballots for the scandal-plagued former congressman in order to vote for Negron.

Those circumstances may give Democrat Tim Mahoney the upper hand in a race Foley had been expected to win.

But Negron told CNN he was optimistic that he could keep the seat in Republican hands and that he expects to receive financial support from the state and national parties for his campaign.

"This is a 60-percent-for-Jeb-Bush House district," Negron said.

With control of the House up for grabs in November, Hastert went before reporters in Washington Monday to blast Foley, calling his behavior "vile" and charging that he had "deceived" his colleagues.

GOP actions defended

Two Republicans with leadership positions, Reps. John Shimkus of Illinois and Tom Reynolds of New York, have acknowledged that they knew about an "overly friendly" exchange of e-mails in 2005 between Foley and a former male page from Louisiana, which were not sexually explicit.

Shimkus is chairman of the House Page Board, and Reynolds chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, the election campaign arm for House Republicans. (Timeline)

Shimkus has said Foley assured him nothing inappropriate had taken place with the page, after which Foley was told not to have any further contact with the teen and to watch his conduct around pages.

In a news conference Monday night, Reynolds said that Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Louisiana Republican who sponsored the page e-mailed by Foley in 2005, informed him about the notes earlier this year. Reynolds said he did not actually see the e-mails.

Reynolds said he then informed Hastert because he thought it was appropriate to tell his "supervisor" about allegations of possible sexual misconduct. (Watch how Florida newspapers didn't pursue the story -- 2:51 Video)

But Reynolds insisted that he, too, did not know about the more explicit messages from 2003 -- and, that once he saw them Friday, he began working "swiftly and immediately" to get Foley to resign.

Hastert told CNN Monday that he does not recall being told by Reynolds about the e-mails between Foley and the Louisiana teen, although he did not dispute that the conversation may have happened.

"If he did, he brought it in with a whole stack of things," the speaker said.

Hastert said the primary interest of the teen's parents was getting Foley to stop contacting their son, which was accomplished. Alexander has said the parents did not want to pursue the matter further. (Watch Hastert address the allegations against Foley -- 2:25 Video)

After the other alleged messages surfaced last week, if Foley had not resigned, Hastert said, "I would have demanded his expulsion from the House of Representatives."

Pelosi: Testify under oath

But after Hastert spoke to reporters Monday, Pelosi issued a statement charging that the speaker "again failed to answer the question that every mother and father in America is asking -- how could Republican leaders choose partisan politics over protecting children?"

"Republican leaders admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley's abhorrent behavior for six months to a year and failed to protect the children in their trust," she said. "Republican leaders must be investigated by the Ethics Committee and immediately questioned under oath."

Also, Rep. Dale Kildee of Michigan, the lone Democrat on the three-member Page Board, said he was "outraged" that he had not been informed of the allegations against Foley.

He also complained that Hastert and Shimkus had decided on their own to make changes in the page program without consulting the full panel. (Read how the page program works)

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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