Was this was tipped off the feds?

By Josh Gerstein
5/29/15 – 9:22 PM EDT

How did federal authorities get onto Dennis Hastert?

That question puzzled lawmakers, congressional aides and Washington lawyers struggling to process news of the indictment of the former House speaker over an alleged $3.5 million hush money scheme. Some found themselves doing some sleuthing of their own Friday, scouring the legal papers for hints of how and why federal investigators began looking into the former speaker’s financial affairs.

The charge that Hastert “structured” nearly $1 million in bank withdrawals by breaking them into sums that fell below federal reporting requirements suggested the possibility of a tip-off from one or more of the banks involved.

But the indictment doesn’t mention any such tip. In fact, the charges say the probe didn’t get underway until sometime in 2013, eight months or more after officials at one bank confronted Hastert about a series of $50,000 withdrawals he had taken in cash.

Another possibility is that federal investigators took an interest in Hastert because of a civil suit a former business partner, J. David John, filed against the former speaker in July 2013 claiming that he was using his government-paid former speaker’s office in order to advance private lobbying and business projects.

Hastert denied the claims he misused tax dollars.

The filing of the suit automatically triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, which the FBI took part in. That could have led to a forensic review of Hastert’s tax returns and any reports banks may filed on his cash transactions.

Last April, the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to join the lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras has dismissed the case twice, but allowed John’s legal team to re-file it. A third drafting of the complaint now awaits another ruling from the judge.

Bizarrely, routine legal filings in the case continued Friday despite the blockbuster news of Hastert’s criminal indictment.

Hastert’s lawyers in the civil suit submitted a motion arguing the case should be thrown out because John never presented the government with all the allegations key to the dispute.

The filing, first reported by Buzzfeed, came from Justin Chiarodo, a lawyer at Dickstein Shapiro — the same law and lobbying firm Hastert abruptly resigned from Thursday — and from Hastert’s son Ethan, an attorney with Chicago firm Mayer Brown. It made no mention that Hastert now faces two felony charges in the same federal court where the suit is pending.

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