Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was traveling on an official trip to China last week when his scandal-scarred Nevada GOP colleague, John Ensign, announced his resignation so he hasn’t had a chance to comment until now.
Reid told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that he thinks the Senate Ethics Committee will issue a final report on the charges surrounding Ensign’s affair with a top staffer’s wife and the creative steps he took to keep it quiet.
In fact, he said, the panel doesn’t have a choice.
“They are obligated to come up with a report,” he said, noting that he had previously served as chairman of the ethics panel for many years.
More than that, he said, if they find evidence of criminal misconduct, they have to turn it over to the Justice Department.
“If they come up with a [criminal] violation, they are obligated to refer it to the Justice Department,” he added.
Ensign had already announced he would not seek re-election, but a month and a half after the Senate Ethics Committee named a special prosecutor to his case, Ensign decided it was time to go — and quickly. His resignation is effective May 4.
Watchdogs immediately worried that the ethics panel would let Ensign off the hook completely, but the panel quickly quashed that concern by issuing a rare statement signaling it would continue its investigation.