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Sources: House clerk warned GOP about Foley years ago

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former congressman said Thursday that based on his knowledge of the House official who oversaw the page program he is "confident" House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office was warned about former Rep. Mark Foley's correspondences with teenage congressional pages.

Steve Gunderson is a friend of former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, who testified for almost four hours Thursday morning before the ethics subcommittee investigating the Foley scandal.

"The second he got any kind of report of questionable conduct, he would report it to the appropriate people," Gunderson said of Trandahl. "Jeff saw his role as protecting the pages ... and making sure that the pages, as well as members of Congress, followed the code of conduct to the T."

Gunderson, of Wisconsin, served in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1997. He left before the first publicly reported concerns were raised about Foley.

Trandahl repeatedly raised red flags about Foley years before GOP leaders said they knew about Foley's inappropriate conduct with pages, sources said.

Trandahl's attorney, Cono Namorato, released a statement after his client's testimony, saying Trandahl will not discuss his recollection of events while the investigations are pending.

"Jeff Trandahl has cooperated fully with the investigation being conducted by the FBI and the investigative group of the Committee on Standards [of Official Conduct]," the statement said. "He answered every question asked of him and stands ready to render additional assistance if needed."

Two sources close to Trandahl told CNN that he had been monitoring Foley's interaction with pages after being told of troubling behavior by the congressman in the House cloakroom and elsewhere. Trandahl took his concerns to Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, many times, the sources said.

Fordham testified last week that he warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, at least three years ago about Foley's conduct, according to a source familiar with Fordham's version of events.

Palmer has denied Fordham's account.

Foley resigned September 29 after details of alleged sexually explicit instant messages to teenage boys who had served as Capitol Hill pages became public.

Trandahl, who was House clerk from 1998 to 2005, oversaw the page program and had day-to-day authority over the teens. Former colleagues describe him as a by-the-book manager who took his job seriously.

Craig Shniderman, executive director of the Washington charity Food & Friends and a friend of Trandahl, told CNN that if Trandahl were aware of something improper, he would have reported it.

"Jeff is a guy who always does the right thing," Shniderman said. "He lives by the truth. He lives by one truth. He's not a man that tells different stories to different people."

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio also appeared before the committee on Thursday.

Boehner issued a statement afterward in which he urged anyone with information to come forward. Included are "Democratic leaders," Boehner said without elaborating. He named only Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"The despicable conduct from Mark Foley outraged all members who have great respect for this institution. Had anyone known about it, we would have moved to expel him from our ranks immediately," Boehner said in the statement. "The ongoing inquiry will determine the facts, but it's important we return to the real issues the American people care about."

Page's sponsor testifies

Rep. Rodney Alexander, the congressman who warned House leaders about Foley's e-mails to a teenage boy from his district, testified before the ethics committee Wednesday.

The Louisiana Republican said he wants to know who else knew about Foley's behavior.

Alexander spent about three hours testifying about Foley's contacts with teenage pages and how the chamber's Republican leadership handled concerns about Foley.

"We told them what we know, when we knew it, and what we did about it, and we are looking forward and hoping that the committee will talk to others," Alexander said. "It's quite apparent from some of the reports out there that there are many people that know what we know and have known it for a lot longer period of time than we've known."

Alexander has said his office warned House leaders in 2005 about nonexplicit but "overly friendly" e-mails Foley sent to a teen Alexander sponsored as a page. That led to investigations by the House ethics committee and Justice Department.

The heads-up from Alexander's office also resulted in a private rebuke of Foley from Trandahl and Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, the Republican chairman of the House Page Board.

Alexander's constituent reported receiving e-mail from Foley in late 2005, according to an account released by Hastert's office after the scandal broke. The e-mails, which the boy called "sick," included Foley's request for a picture and a question about what he wanted for his birthday.

"The pages from the past that have come forward now with testimony, you know, I'd like to know who their member of Congress was," Alexander said. "Who sponsored them? What did they know? Why didn't they reveal if they knew anything? So, there are some very important questions that the committee has yet to get answers to."

Both Alexander and the boy's family have said that they wanted the contact to stop but did not want the issue made public. Alexander said Wednesday that the boy was not aware of the more explicit instant messages to other teens, and he said the teen's parents "have been almost physically sick about the attention that he's gotten unfairly."

"We just look forward to the committee continuing their investigation, and hopefully this will come to a conclusion and we can move on with other things," he said.

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.


Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl arrives Thursday at the Capitol before his testimony before the House ethics committee.



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