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Lawmakers probe timeline in querying Foley's ex-aide

WASHINGTON -- Former Representative Mark Foley's one-time aide didn't waver yesterday from his contention that he told the House speaker's chief of staff at least three years ago about Foley's approaches to male pages, the witness's lawyer said.

Kirk Fordham would not comment after emerging from nearly five hours of closed-door testimony before the House ethics committee, but his lawyer, Timothy Heaphy, said Fordham was ``consistent in his accounts." Fordham has spoken out publicly on his timeline and was questioned by the FBI.

Speaker Dennis Hastert has said that he learned of inappropriate approaches by Foley in late September, and that his aides found out in the fall of 2005. Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has denied that Fordham contacted him at least three years ago, contradicting Fordham and creating one of the major conflicts the committee must resolve.

Heaphy told reporters Fordham was ``forthcoming" in his testimony.

Foley resigned from Congress on Sept. 29 after being confronted with sexually explicit messages.

Polls indicate the scandal is hurting Republican chances of retaining the majority in the House.

President Bush appeared with the embattled speaker in Chicago yesterday, saying the country would be ``better off" with Hastert in power.

``I am proud to be standing with the current speaker of the House, who is going to be the future speaker of the House," Bush said as he opened a speech to raise money for two Illinois congressional candidates.

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