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Key witness before Ethics

From NBC's Mike Viqueira
Next on the list of important people you've never heard of is Ted Van Der Meid, currently behind closed doors at the House Ethics Committee. Van Der Meid is the potential key to the question of what the Speaker's staff knew about Mark Foley's behavior with House pages and what, if anything, they did with that knowledge.

As Counsel to the Speaker and director of floor operations, Van Der Meid has immense power when it comes to the day-to-day operations of the House. His realm includes dominion over the House Clerk, who in turn runs the page program. That's why many on the Hill find it difficult to believe that Jeff Trandahl, who was Clerk at the time of the first allegations about Foley, would not have alerted Van Der Meid. In fact, a source close to Trandahl says that the former Clerk, who testified last week, has said that's just what he did whenever complaints about Foley arose -- he took them to Van Der Meid.

Remember: the Speaker's office asserts that no one on the staff, including Van Der Meid, had any awareness of Foley's conduct -- lewd, "overfriendly," or otherwise -- before the fall of 2005.

It is ironic in the extreme to see Van Der Meid now hauled before Ethics, since he has served as chief counsel to that committee in the past, most notably during the investigation of Newt Gingrich.  As one might expect from someone in his position and with his history, there are many in the House -- both at the staff and member levels -- who resent the man and would not mind seeing him take a fall.