Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) again declined to say whether he’s been subpoenaed by the grand jury that’s probing his sex-and-lobbying scandal — and instead took a shot at “gotcha” journalism.
Asked by Politico whether he had been subpoenaed, Ensign instead went on a tirade against the media. “Seeking of the truth should be not only part of the Justice Department and part of our judicial system, but also should be … a goal of reporters today,” said the embattled lawmaker. “Unfortunately, too much of our press is … (1) biased or (2) just about ‘gotcha.’”
Perhaps using a poor choice of words, Ensign added: “Whether it’s Republican or Democrat, it’s about nailing somebody.”
It’s just, I have a responsibility to do my job and, as part of this republic that we have, the fourth estate does too, and they’re both important roles. Unfortunately, some in my part don’t give it a good name. But some in your part don’t give it a good name, [and] it’s all of us trying to do our best. That’s all I’m trying to say.
An Ensign spokeswoman last week declined to tell TPMmuckraker whether the senator had heard from the Feds.
The Justice Department’s investigation was focused on whether Ensign violated lobbying rules by trying to set up Doug Hampton as a lobbyist after an affair between the senator and Hampton’s wife led Hampton to lose his job as a top Ensign aide. But, ominously, it appears lately to have expanded to consider an ever graver charge: that Ensign tied legislative favors for credit card companies to contributions to the NRSC, which he chaired at the time. Several former Ensign aides and Nevada businesses were recently subpoenaed.
Ensign has largely refused to answer questions about the probe, other than to say he did nothing that violated the law or ethics rules. But since the senator confessed to the affair last June, news reports have provided as steady stream of damaging revelations about his efforts to handle the fallout from it.
Jon Ralston, a Nevada political writer who has covered the scandal closely, scoffed at Ensign’s charge. “It’s hard to play gotcha journalism when Sen. Ensign has been ducking questions on these questions since June 16 of last year,” Ralston told Politico. “And Ensign simply will not answer basic questions about why his parents paid off the Hamptons, why he tried to find [Doug] Hampton jobs and why he put the arm on companies to hire him or contribute to campaigns. Is that fair to his constituents?”