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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 20:46 GMT 21:46 UK
Key aide heard in US e-mail row
Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl arrives to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington
Mr Trandahl says he confronted Mr Foley about the matter in 2005
A key witness in a US congressional inquiry over an explicit e-mail scandal has testified before the House of Representatives ethics committee.

The scandal began after revelations that Republican ex-congressman Mark Foley had sent lurid e-mails to pages - young male staff on work experience.

The latest testimony came from ex-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl, a former pages' boss. He testified behind closed door.

He was expected to be grilled about how the Republicans dealt with the issue.

Mark Foley. File photo
The row is dominating politics ahead of mid-term elections

At issue in the investigation - now in its second week - is also how House Republican leader Dennis Hastert's office dealt with the knowledge that Mr Foley was sending lurid e-mails.

Mr Foley resigned over the scandal. He has said he is gay but denies any sexual contact with pages.

In a further twist, a Roman Catholic priest admitted having an inappropriate relationship with Mr Foley 40 years ago.

Recent polls suggest that the majority of Americans are unhappy with how senior Republicans handled the page scandal, the BBC's Nick Miles in Washington says.

That could have an impact on the Congressional mid-term elections in November, our correspondent says.

Aide denials

Mr Foley resigned on 29 September after revelations that he had sent sexual messages to House high school students appointed to help with administrative work.

Dennis Hastert. File photo
House leader Dennis Hastert has received backing from the president

The youngest recipient of the suggestive e-mails is said to have been 16 years old.

Mr Hastert says he first became aware of Mr Foley's actions just before his resignation.

But a former adviser to Mr Foley says he reported concerns about his contacts with pages to Mr Hastert's chief-of-staff several years ago.

The chief-of-staff, Scott Palmer, has denied the claims.

Mr Hastert, who earlier this month rejected calls for his resignation over his handling of the case, has said he will sack any member of his staff who may have covered up the e-mail scandal.

The ethics committee, on which there are five Democrats and five Republicans, will examine who became aware of the allegations and when, although it has no jurisdiction over Mr Foley.

Committee chairman Doc Hastings said he hoped to finish the inquiry "in weeks", but it is unclear whether it will be complete before the 7 November mid-term polls.

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