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Fordham to testify he warned about Foley

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An ex-congressional aide will tell a House ethics panel Thursday that he delivered warnings about former Rep. Mark Foley to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide years ago.

Kirk Fordham, who once served as Foley's chief of staff, plans to testify under oath that he warned more than one congressional official several times about Foley's inappropriate behavior with pages and that the warnings came much earlier than Republican leaders have reported.

A source familiar with his account of events told CNN that Fordham will say he notified Scott Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, three or four years ago about a report that Foley had shown up drunk at the dormitory that houses the teenage messengers. (Watch how the scandal has affected Foley's district -- 1:23 Video)

CNN was told by two sources familiar with Fordham's account and a third, independent source that Fordham maintains he arranged a meeting between Foley and Palmer about that report and accounts of other behavior Fordham found troubling.

In a statement last week, Palmer denied Fordham's account, insisting that "what Kirk Fordham said did not happen." He has made no further public comment.

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned September 29 after sexually explicit instant messages from the six-term lawmaker to male pages became public. The House Ethics Committee and the Justice Department are investigating how the House GOP leadership handled the matter, and FBI agents interviewed Fordham last week.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, asked House Clerk Karen Haas to investigate the dormitory allegation last week. Capitol Police are looking through files for any record of the incident, a spokeswoman said.

Another GOP congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, says she conducted her own investigation two weeks ago and learned that Foley "showed up at the page dorm one night inebriated." Brown-Waite has not released any details.

Fordham resigned last week as chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-New York, after ABC News reported that he offered the network an exclusive on Foley's resignation if it agreed not to air transcripts of the most explicit messages.

After his resignation, he said he warned Hastert's office about Foley well before 2005, when the speaker's office says it first learned about non-explicit but "overly friendly" e-mails between Foley and a Louisiana teen who had served as a page earlier that year.

Wednesday, the ethics committee heard from the supervisors of both Republican and Democratic pages. Next week, the Louisiana congressman who raised concerns in late 2005 and his top aide will appear before the committee.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Louisiana, brought Foley's e-mails to a former page to House leaders' attention in 2005. His chief of staff, Royal Alexander, said he would testify on Monday, while the congressman will testify Wednesday.

Royal Alexander, who is not related to his boss, told CNN. "We are happy to go voluntarily. Neither he nor I have retained attorneys yet, either."

Rep. Alexander was the sponsor of a 16-year-old male who served as a page, or messenger, on Capitol Hill. In November 2005, the teen reported receiving e-mail from Foley, in which the six-term Florida congressman asked him what he wanted for his birthday and whether he would send Foley a picture of himself. The teen characterized the requests as "sick," but the e-mails were not sexually explicit.

Who knew what...when?

Hastert has faced calls from some leading conservatives to step down, while top Democrats have accused the House leadership of covering up concerns about Foley. Republicans have hit back by questioning whether Democrats knew previously about Foley's contacts with teenagers and leaked the story at this time to damage Republican prospects in November's congressional elections.

Rep. Alexander brought the e-mail from his constituent to the attention of Hastert's office, resulting in a private warning to Foley from then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl and the Republican chairman of the House Page Board, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois. Both Alexander and the teen's family have said that they did not want the issue made public and wanted the contact to stop.

Hastert and other top GOP lawmakers have said they were not previously aware of the sexually explicit instant messages between Foley and other pages. But several sources familiar with the situation told CNN that Trandahl had raised alarms about Foley's contacts with the teens long before he resigned his post in November 2005.

The sources, including one familiar with Trandahl's version of events, told CNN that Trandahl was actively monitoring Foley's interaction with pages after witnessing and hearing reports about worrisome behavior by the congressman.

And Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Arizona, said Tuesday that a young man he had appointed as a page told his office that he had received an e-mail from Foley "that made him uncomfortable."

Asked about Kolbe's account, Hastert said Tuesday, "If there's something that was of a nature that should have been reported or brought forward, then he should have done that." Hastert said that his staff handled the matter "as well as they should," but added, "In 20-20 hindsight, we could probably do everything better."

At the White House, President Bush said Wednesday that he "appreciated" Hastert's leadership on the issue.

CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena and CNN's Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.



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