Dennis Hastert -- the now-indicted former Illinois congressman -- has the distinction of being the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House. Hence, in his home state, the state legislature was ready to spend half a million dollars this year to build a statue of him.
But Hastert said he didn't want it -- something we now know that he said as he was aware of the criminal probe he was facing.
Hastert tamped down on the idea almost immediately, though, saying the money would be better spent closing budget holes.
Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the Sun-Times that Hastert "said he appreciated the recognition and honor, but asked us to defer given the state's financial condition."
The two Chicago papers reported the news about the statue on Thursday evening, hours after federal authorities shocked the political world by unsealing an indictment accusing Hastert of bank fraud and lying to federal authorities.
There's no way of knowing for sure if Hastert took the initiative because of the possible indictment. But we do know that Hastert was at least aware the FBI and Internal Revenue Service were investigating his suspicious bank withdrawals.
The timing is important here. A grand jury was convened in February 2014 to decide whether Hastert should be charged on suspicion of illegally withdrawing the money from banks, allegedly for a $3.5-million hush payment to an unknown acquaintance for undetermined "misconduct" decades earlier, and then lying about the withdrawals to the FBI.
A seven-page indictment says the feds started their investigation into Hastert's bank withdrawals in 2013.
Hastert was most likely aware the grand jury was debating pressing charges against him. In most grand juries, the defendant has a lawyer to defend himself or herself from prosecutors' evidence, legal analyst Seema Iyer told MSNBC in an excellent explainer on how grand juries work. (Grand juries often hold a very low standard for indictment, Iyer added.)
What's more, Hastert was confronted by officials in December 2014, when agents asked Hastert if he was storing the $950,000 he had taken out over four years because he didn't feel safe with the banking system.
Hastert allegedly responded: "Yeah … I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing."
The indictment was released to the world Thursday. Madigan's spokesman said Hastert urged the state House speaker not to pursue the statue more than a month ago.
Brown confirmed with both papers the statue was indeed shelved "over budget concerns," even though it appears that after or right around Hastert's call, the bill spent the next two weeks being debated and ultimately passed out of committee.
At the time, the state legislature was hurdling toward a deadline to pass a budget, and Democrats in control were $3 billion short in paying for their proposed $36.3 billion budget plan, which was at odds with the state's Republican governor, the Sun-Times reported.
It seems Hastert kept all of this under a very tight lid. An indictment, after all, is not an admission of guilt. He continued with his lucrative lobbying job in Washington, D.C. (he resigned Thursday night), and close friends reached near Hastert's home in Yorkville, Ill., told the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Mark Berman they had no idea this was coming.
“It’s a shock to me as much as anybody,” said Loren Miller, a longtime friend of Hastert’s. “He got his job because he didn’t have any skeletons in his closet.”
Speaking Thursday night at his home in Yorkville, Miller said “there wasn’t anything wrong” when Hastert last visited about a week ago.
What's also not clear is whether Hastert knew he was going to be indicted. Rumors had been swirling among Washington's political elite for weeks that Hastert was in legal trouble, Politico reported. When Politico called Hastert up last week to ask, he denied knowing an indictment was coming.
“I read what you heard, but that’s not correct,” Hastert told Politico.
Like so much in this case, what people knew and when is still a mystery.