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Hastert: 'the buck stops here'

From NBC's Huma Zaidi and Elizabeth Wilner
House Speaker Dennis Hastert said today that while he is "deeply sorry" over the page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R) and that Republicans are "ultimately" taking responsibility, he will not resign his post because he did not do anything wrong. The Speaker insisted that he did not know of the problem until last Friday despite accusations that his office was informed years ago. "The fact is, I don't know who knew what when," Hastert said.

At a press conference outside his office in Illinois, Hastert announced that he has called for an investigation into the allegations and has turned the issue over to the House Ethics Committee, the FBI, the Department of Justice and the state of Florida. The Speaker also announced that a toll-free number has been set-up for people to leave confidential information regarding inappropriate contact with pages or discuss concerns. However, Hastert inadvertently inverted two of the numbers when releasing the tip-line information. The correct toll-free number is 1-866-348-0481. Interestingly, Hastert refrained from using Foley's name during his press conference.

Hastert also quelled rumors of his resignation in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, published this morning. Yet the debate rages on whether Hastert should resign. One senior Republican in Congress told MSNBC's David Shuster that he admires Hastert's decision not to resign, but that Hastert has now put Republicans in a "difficult position" because their Democratic challengers will pose this awkward question to them: "Do you support Dennis Hastert remaining as speaker or not?" But another GOP House member tells First Read that if Hastert resigns, "there's no alternative. There's another set of questions waiting for [Majority Leader John] Boehner. Better to draw the line here."