Federal agents have started interviewing people connected to Sen. John Ensign’s sex scandal, a potential sign that the Nevada Republican could face a criminal probe over the matter, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
The FBI has contacted former aides to Ensign — in both Las Vegas and in Washington, the sources said. The sources said it appears that the FBI has begun a preliminary review of the case, and there’s no evidence yet that it will become a full-fledged criminal investigation into the senator’s conduct. At the same time, the Senate Ethics Committee has already launched an inquiry, issuing subpoenas last month to a slew of former Ensign aides.
“Yes, the FBI has contacted witnesses — in this case, former aides,” said one source familiar with the matter. “We’ll see where it leads.”
It may not lead anywhere good for the far-right senator. To briefly recap, Ensign’s humiliation came to public attention in June, when we learned the conservative, “family values” lawmaker carried on a lengthy extra-marital affair with one of his aides, who happened to be married to another one of his aides. Ensign’s parents tried to pay off the mistress’ family.
The scandal grew far worse in October, when we learned that the Republican senator pushed his political and corporate allies to give lobbying contracts to his mistress’s husband. Despite laws prohibiting aides from lobbying for a year after leaving the Hill, Ensign and the aggrieved husband seemed to ignore the rule, and the senator used his office to cater to the needs of those who hired his mistress’s spouse.
There’s some evidence to suggest Ensign’s constituents are unmoved by the scandal, but for FBI investigators who believe the senator may have broken a law or two, taking a pass isn’t really an option.
A former Justice Department prosecutor recently noted, “I think, at a minimum, a grand jury will be empaneled, and Ensign and Hampton will be called in to testify.” Peter Zeiderberg, a former Public Integrity prosecutor for the DoJ noted that a criminal investigation of Ensign “is likely.”
Maybe then the media will take a greater interest? It’s hard to say what might capture Villagers’ attention, but a federal criminal probe of a sitting senator, caught up in a humiliating sex scandal, ought to be worth some coverage.