Trandahl To Testify Today

In related news, the former House Clerk under Speaker Dennis “Hasturd” Hastert, Jeff Trandahl, will testify before the House Ethics Committee investigating the Mark Foley scandal.

As a crucial Washington and Congressional insider, openly-gay Trandahl’s (pictured, looking pretty cheer in The Times) testimony has the potential to make or break this investigation. The New York Times Reports:

The House clerk, a vestige of the patronage system, serves at the pleasure of the speaker and, in recent years, Mr. Hastert’s influential chief counsel, Ted Van Der Meid. House investigators are trying to deduce whether a deteriorating relationship between Mr. Van Der Meid and others in the Capitol, particularly Mr. Trandahl, had a role in the handling of the complaints about Mr. Foley.

So Trandahl served “at the pleasure” of old Speaker Hasturd? That poor, poor man…

The issue at hand is whether or not Trandahl actually alerted Turdie’s office or if he gave the information to Kirk Fordham. One thing we do know is that Trandahl confronted Foley about the emails last year. Apparently his words fell flat.

Determining the exact sequence of events will help investigators piece together who knew what when and whether or not key Republican figures helped cover up Mark Foley’s “overly-friendly” emails with Congressional pages.

And, yes, we’ve posted the entire Times article after the jump.

October 18, 2006
Ex-House Clerk May Be a Key in Foley’s Case

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 – In the days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, as elaborate battle plans were drawn to protect members of Congress and preserve government continuity, Jeff Trandahl, the clerk of the House, did something else. He obtained a commercial driver’s license.

Mr. Trandahl wanted to be ready for the next emergency. Of all his responsibilities in Congress, a priority was safeguarding the high school students who work as pages. He arranged for buses to be parked nearby, so pages could leave their dormitories or the Capitol. If needed, he would drive them to safety.

His concern for the pages highlights the protection provided to the teenagers in their time here. But it also raises piercing questions about how years of whispers over a congressman’s unwelcome advances could escape public notice until being exposed on a television news program.

Mr. Trandahl, a commanding behind-the-scenes player on Capitol Hill before stepping down last year, was little known outside Congress. But he has emerged as a central figure in the case of how the House Republican leadership dealt with the conduct of Mark Foley, the former representative whose sexually charged messages to Congressional pages have shaken the midterm elections.

As the House ethics committee pursues its investigation, few accounts are more crucial than Mr. Trandahl’s in determining whether Republican leaders acted with enough urgency. He is scheduled to testify to the committee on Thursday, when he could corroborate – or contradict – accusations that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s office knew about Mr. Foley’s behavior at least three years ago.

The House clerk, a vestige of the patronage system, serves at the pleasure of the speaker and, in recent years, Mr. Hastert’s influential chief counsel, Ted Van Der Meid. House investigators are trying to deduce whether a deteriorating relationship between Mr. Van Der Meid and others in the Capitol, particularly Mr. Trandahl, had a role in the handling of the complaints about Mr. Foley.

As House clerk, Mr. Trandahl had a rare bird’s-eye view of what was occurring beneath the Capitol dome. As a gay Republican, he also had a window into a subculture not widely discussed within his party.

Although he never dwelled on his sexuality, he also did not go to extreme lengths to conceal it, unlike Mr. Foley, who publicly acknowledged he is gay only after resigning this month.

Mr. Trandahl, 42, has told friends he was not a social friend of Mr. Foley and did not jeopardize pages’ safety. He has declined to discuss the case publicly while it remains under investigation by the ethics committee and the F.B.I., which is trying to determine whether Mr. Foley broke laws by exchanging sexually explicit messages with current and former pages.

Interviews with more than 20 former colleagues and acquaintances, Republicans and Democrats alike, paint Mr. Trandahl as a fastidious manager with a penchant for playing by the rules. At the same time, the colleagues and acquaintances said, he was a keen inside player who mastered the art of navigating an institution that is structured to protect its own.

“When the rest of the trees blow down, Jeff Trandahl will be left standing up,” said Craig Shniderman, executive director of Food and Friends, a charity here, who has known Mr. Trandahl for nearly a decade. “This is a pretty complicated situation, but I don’t have any doubt that he did the right thing.”

For seven years, Mr. Trandahl oversaw more than 300 employees, a $20 million budget and House functions. He also supervised the page program. And in the conflicting accounts and varying recollections about when Republican leaders learned of Mr. Foley’s conduct, it is Mr. Trandahl who seems interwoven at each step along the way.

In the House, Mr. Trandahl had what amounted to an all-access pass, giving V.I.P.’s and friends tours through little-known corridors and up to the high arches of the rotunda. He guided many facets of House operations from an ornate second-floor office overlooking the Mall. Just a handful of politicians enjoyed a grander view of the Washington Monument.

Mr. Trandahl arrived in Washington in 1983, months after graduating from high school in Spearfish, S.D., to work in the office of Senator James Abdnor, Republican of South Dakota. After Mr. Abdnor was defeated three years later, he found his eager young aide a job on the House side of Capitol Hill, working for the senator’s close friend Representative Virginia Smith, Republican of Nebraska.

By then, Mr. Trandahl had earned a degree in government from the University of Maryland and began to stand out as a consummate networker in a city filled with networkers.

He ascended to various positions in the House, seldom forgetting a name or face, and was an experienced insider in 1994 when Republicans took control of the House for the first time in four decades.

In 1998, Newt Gingrich promised to clean up years of patronage largess in the House, first by Democrats and then by Republicans, and appointed Mr. Trandahl acting clerk of the House. After unexpectedly becoming speaker, Mr. Hastert made Mr. Trandahl’s appointment permanent.

Suddenly, Mr. Trandahl was a constitutional officer, standing barely more than arm’s length from President Bush as he took the oath of office and presiding over the House at the dawn of each session of Congress.

“He wasn’t seen as partisan,” said George Shevlin, a friend of Mr. Trandahl who is a longtime Democratic staff member of the House Administration Committee. “He was seen as very dedicated to the institution. When things got to be too partisan, that seemed to bother him.”

As clerk, Mr. Trandahl supervised the page program. So concerns involving their conduct were routed to him. Most every year, he sent at least some pages home for drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana or simply misbehaving.

Former pages and staff members say he guided the young Congressional errand runners with a fair, but strict hand, earning him the nickname J. T. Money.

“With the kids, money was like gold, and his word was like gold,” Matt Frattalli, a former tutor at the Congressional page school, said. “There was no slack with him. You respected him and you feared him.”

Over the years, people who worked with him on the Hill said, Mr. Trandahl received periodic complaints that Mr. Foley was acting too friendly to the pages or interns.

The House ethics committee is trying to determine whether Mr. Trandahl simply passed along the information to Kirk Fordham, a longtime aide to Mr. Foley, or whether he alerted the speaker’s office that Mr. Foley’s overfriendly behavior had grown beyond idle gossip.

Representative Jim Kolbe, Republican of Arizona, said he informed the clerk’s office more than five years ago of concerns a former page shared about an inappropriate e-mail exchange with Mr. Foley.

Last year, when Mr. Trandahl was alerted to e-mail messages that Mr. Foley had sent a former page in Louisiana, he confronted Mr. Foley with Representative John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois and chairman of the page board.

By the time word of the e-mail exchange surfaced, Mr. Trandahl was making plans to leave Capitol Hill after 23 years. He had accepted a position as executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, blending politics with a lifelong passion for the outdoors.

Friends dismiss the suggestion that his departure was linked to the Foley case.

“This goofy notion that he vanished in a poof of smoke is wrong,” said John Scofield, a Republican staff member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Before leaving, Mr. Trandahl received bipartisan praise from Mr. Hastert and the House minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.

Some aides were surprised that Mr. Trandahl did not accept a lucrative lobbying position here. People close to him said he recoiled at the thought of returning to Capitol Hill to befriend members of Congress while pushing legislation for clients.

It was the culmination of a pattern, friends say, of never wanting to socialize on the Hill after long days and nights surrounded by politics and government.

“I don’t control the actors,” Mr. Trandahl once told The Aberdeen American News of South Dakota. “But I control every other part.”

Now, he spends his spare time in Rappahannock County, Va., where he restored a brown A-frame house on the side of a rugged hill, overlooking waterfalls and a rippling creek filled with trout.

It is 72 miles, but a world away, from downtown Washington, where visitors travel across roads called Fogg Mountain, Fish Hawk Pass and Points of View Lane.