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July 26, 2017

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John Ensign mum on possible contact with feds

John Ensign

John Ensign

WASHINGTON -- The question was asked, but Republican Sen. John Ensign is declining to say whether he has been contacted by federal authorities in a possible investigation into the lobbying activities of his former aide, Doug Hampton.

Ensign was friendly enough as he offered a few brief hallway comments before ducking into a Republican Party meeting in the Senate this week. Mostly, he referred questions about the investigation back to his previous statements. He looked tired.

The senator has said previously he did nothing wrong in helping to get a job for Hampton, whose wife, Cindy, is a former campaign staffer with whom the senator was having an affair. Hampton has admitted to violating the one-year ban on lobbying his former boss, and suggested in a New York Times story that Ensign was aware they were violating the ban.

Ensign has said he would cooperate with any formal investigation.

The Senate Ethics Committee has opened a preliminary investigation after Ensign’s actions surrounding his former employers were disclosed, along with earlier reports that the senator’s parents paid the couple’s family $96,000.

The Justice Department has not said whether it was investigating, though ethics experts and former Justice officials believe the claims made in the Times story would likely prompt an investigation.

The senator continues trying to turn the page on the affair that derailed his rising career after he disclosed the relationship in June.

Ensign made a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon regarding the administration’s penchant for hiring policy czars – officials who work in the White House but are not subject to Senate confirmation scrutiny.