Is the Justice Department leaning towards laying off Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)?
That’s the direction in which Politico’s reporting seems to point. According to the new site, DOJ officials “signal that the case is a low-priority matter for them.” It adds that “no one close to Ensign or the Hamptons has been contacted by any federal investigators.” And it notes that the Senate Ethics committee, which usually stands down when Justice is involved, has been forging ahead with its probe of the philandering Nevada senator.
Ensign reportedly directed his staff to maintain contact with Doug Hampton — the former aide whose wife Ensign had an affair with — after the senator had set Hampton up as a lobbyist. In at least one case, Ensign took action on behalf of Hampton’s clients after Hampton had lobbied his office. Those revelations led to calls for a DOJ-led criminal investigation.
Not surpirsingly, watchdog groups aren’t happy about the idea that DOJ would let Ensign off the hook so easily. “If they’re not going to prosecute Ensign for this, with the abundance of evidence there is that he violated the law, then they might as well just throw the law out, because when will they have a clearer case?” Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Politico. “It basically tells members of Congress ‘Don’t worry about this, you won’t be prosecuted, violate the lobbying ban at will.’”
Politico also reports that Attorney General Eric Holder went to some lengths to avoid appearing in person with Ensign during a recent event in Las Vegas — which frankly seems appropriate, given that DOJ may be mulling a probe.