Rick Sanchez Asks John Ensign About Ethics Issues

Well, what do you know. The scandal ridden John Ensign crawled out from behind his rock and decided to give a television interview today. The conversa
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Well, what do you know. The scandal ridden John Ensign crawled out from behind his rock and decided to give a television interview today. The conversation started out pretty friendly with Ensign being asked about the recent Underwear Bomber incident, but then Rick Sanchez decided to actually pretend like he was a journalist for a bit and asked him about his recent sex scandal and ethics violations. I'll give Sanchez kudos for at least bringing it up when it appeared at first he wasn't going to even mention the scandal and it was pretty obvious that Ensign didn't agree to talk about it before the interview.

That said, Sanchez could have asked him a whole lot more questions on the details of the scandal, like why his parents were giving $96,000 worth of "gifts" to Doug Hampton. Or maybe he could have asked him about why Tom Coburn was helping to negotiate bribes for his mistress and what role the C-Street House played in the scandal.

This is just another example of what a waste bin our media has become when politicians feel fairly secure that they can tell a "news organization" and I use that term lightly, that they are going to refuse to answer questions about the only thing the media should be questioning them about and still be allowed on the air. I can only imagine how much different this interview would have been had it been Rachel Maddow conducting it. Sadly in the end Sanchez looked like he was more worried about playing nice with Ensign so maybe he'd come back again some day instead of actually pushing him to answer any of his questions. In true Villager form Sanchez gave Ensign a nice wet kiss at the end of the interview and wished him a happy New Year.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

As more and more information comes out about the man accused in that Christmas Day terror attack, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, there are more questions that are being raised about how he got on the plane to begin with. It is almost a commonsense thing to most Americans by now, but is it really that cut-and-dry?

Joining me now is Nevada Senator John Ensign, who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Good to be with you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: You know, Abdulmutallab must -- I guess, when you look at it on its face, this guy probably should have been on that no-fly list, right? I mean, that is what Americans think.

Senator, thanks for being with us, sir.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Good to be with you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: You know, Abdulmutallab must -- I guess when you look at it on its face, this guy probably should have been on that no-fly list, right? I mean, that is what Americans think, I imagine that's probably what you think as well?

ENSIGN: Well, certainly, by all accounts that we have heard, he should have been on a no-fly list, and we obviously will do hearings getting down to the bottom of this. But I think there is a much bigger issue here, and that is if you go back to pre-9/11, we had problems with our intelligence community. We know that.

There were all of these stovepipes and agencies didn't talk to each other. And we didn't even know about some -- we even know, for instance, about KSM's network. We didn't know about the whole -- in Southeast Asia.

SANCHEZ: So, yes, and guess what...

ENSIGN: We didn't know all of those things.

SANCHEZ: ... it is happening again.

ENSIGN: That's right. But here is one of the big reasons it is happening. One of the reasons we weren't attacked over the last, you know, eight to nine years is because we have actually been capturing and interrogating these terrorists, and the top ones so that we get information about new types of networks that are being set up.

Well, this new network that was being set up in the Arab peninsula, we didn't know about that, and that is -- one of the reasons is, is because for the last year we had stopped capturing and interrogating these high-value targets. We have to understand that we are at war.

SANCHEZ: Not only that, but two of them, according to several reports, actually had been released. We had detained them at one point, released them, and then they got over there. So, look, this is a tough, tough situation, isn't it? Especially trying to get a handle on the situation in Yemen at this point.

ENSIGN: It is, Rick. But there are some common-sense things I think we need to do as Americans. And I would encourage the Obama administration, one is, to change its policy on Guantanamo Bay. I think it is absolutely foolish. I think that the Bush administration, you know, releasing some of the people they did, they made a mistake.

I think it is a huge mistake that we close Guantanamo Bay, that we release some of these people that they are scheduling to release, because the easier ones are already released and the ones who are going to be -- you know, scheduled to be released now, the chances of them going back and getting into a war against us are much higher.

We are in a war against radical Islam. We have to understand that. And we have to use all of the tools necessary -- interrogation. We have to use all of our intelligence tools. We have to use...

SANCHEZ: No, there is no question.

ENSIGN: ... our military, everything that we can do along with Homeland Security to keep our country safe.

SANCHEZ: You make a good point. And as a member of the committee, it is certainly something that we know that you have been looking into.

Listen, I have got to ask you this question since this is your first formal interview on CNN, it behooves me to ask you. And look, I know this is a very difficult thing for you. And I appreciate you being on here and doing this interview and I know you have always been as much as you can be an upright guy.

But you are under, it seems to me that you're under an -- well, let me ask the question. Are you under an investigation right now by the Senate Ethics Committee and/or the Justice Department?

ENSIGN: Well, you know, we -- I will let those folks speak for themselves. You know, Rick, I've been dealing with health care reform. My state has over 12 percent unemployment rate, we have two wars going on, these latest terrorist attacks. There are so many other bigger issues. I have commented all I needed to comment on those kinds of things. I was elected to do a job as a senator.

SANCHEZ: Well, but hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, I have got to stop you there, because if there is a possibility -- here let me show the viewers what we're talking about. This is a picture of you and Doug Hampton. This is from The New York Times Web site right here.

And the question has to be asked, Senator, did you help him to get a job because you felt bad for him or because you had been sleeping with his wife and you wanted to get him out of the way?

ENSIGN: Listen, Rick, I have commented all I was going to comment on that. And I -- you know, we told you when we were going to come on here that I'm going to be focused on health care, I'm going to be focused on the economy. My state is hurting right now as badly as any state in the country. And I'm focused on doing everything I can to help Nevada.

SANCHEZ: But here is the problem with that, and I understand that.

ENSIGN: And that's what I'm going to focus on.

SANCHEZ: No...

ENSIGN: So I am not going to answer your question. You can it all of the ways you want to ask it, but I'm not going to answer your question.

SANCHEZ: But here is the problem. There is a law that says that someone who is an aide for a senator like yourself has to wait one year before they start lobbying. There is reason to believe, Senator -- in fact, a lot of reason to believe here that Doug Hampton, who was your aide, was lobbying within that one year.

If that is the case, sir, that is an illegality, and something that you own an explanation to your constituents about if you had any involvement in either that lobbying or helping him get those lobbying gigs.

ENSIGN: Right. Rick, that -- first of all, that is his problem, that is not my problem. But at the same time I'm not going to answer any of the questions, because I am focused on doing my job right now. All of that stuff will take care of itself over time. We have said we will cooperate with any investigations, and -- but at this moment, I'm just going to focus on being the best senator that I can be for my state.

SANCHEZ: By the way, you just said though that that was his problem and not your problem, but doesn't it become your problem if you arranged meetings for him to A, get those jobs, and then B, set up meetings after he had the lobbying jobs with people that he would be lobbying? Wouldn't that -- wouldn't that kind of link you somehow to this?

ENSIGN: Rick, I know you want to get into this, and I have told you before that I have spoken all I need to speak on this. And everything will take care of itself over time. I have -- no question, I have made statements in the past that I will fully cooperate, have in the past, and will continue to cooperate with any investigations that go on. But I really need to just focus on doing my job. Rick, there are some serious problems, and people are really hurting out there with unemployment, with health care. We -- this health care debate is one- sixth of the economy. I'm going to be going out around my state doing town hall meetings, trying to raise awareness of what is in this bill. I believe this bill is terrible for the country.

And that's what people in Nevada keep telling me, that they want me to do, is they want me to focus on doing my job, and that is what I'm going to do.

SANCHEZ: And I think that's -- well, and I think that's important, sir. But I also think that as citizens, we do get a level of frustration when we see any kind of malfeasance from the folks like you who represent us. And it just seems that it is fair for a journalist to ask a standing senator of the U.S. Senate how he would explain to his constituents, and here is your opportunity to explain to them, how it is that you are in a situation where someone who worked for you a year before they had been out of that office or out of that job, started lobbying? And there is...

ENSIGN: Rick, I have answered those questions. All you have to do is to go back to my statements. I have answered all of those questions, and all of the -- no question in my mind. When all of the investigations, you know, go forward and everything, that it will be proven that exactly what I said.

SANCHEZ: Did you arrange...

ENSIGN: That I did nothing illegal. I did nothing unethical.

SANCHEZ: Did you arrange a meeting...

ENSIGN: And that will be -- that will absolutely be proven.

SANCHEZ: Well, you are saying you set -- see, but now you are bringing me back in. You're saying you have answered all of these questions, I'm not sure that is true, Senator.

ENSIGN: Go back through the records and see my statements.

SANCHEZ: Did you -- did you set up a meeting -- arrange a meeting for Hampton to meet with the new transportation secretary?

ENSIGN: Rick, go back to my statements, you will see exactly what I have said on the record. And go back through them. If you will do your research, you will see that my answers have been very clear. And we will cooperate with any investigations that come forward.

And in the end there is no question in my mind that in the end everything will be answered in its fullest, we will cooperate, and I think, you know, based on the facts that the Ethics Committee would clear me, and I will be able to go on being a senator.

SANCHEZ: The New York Times reports that you reached out to the following people about hiring Doug Hampton: Maurice Gallagher Jr., CEO of Allegiant Air; Bob Andrews, a financial industry executive; Sig Rogich, a prominent Republican; and consultant Paul Steelman , who is a casino architect and developer.

And Steelman says -- and just answer this if you could, Steelman says -- he tells The New York Times that you, quote, you "mentioned Doug Hampton and asked if the developer might have business for him as a lobbyist or consultant."

Did you meet with Steelman and ask him to get Doug Hampton a gig -- a job as a consultant?

ENSIGN: Rick, I will applaud you for your efforts, but I told you before, I have answered the questions that I'm going to answer, and I go back...

SANCHEZ: All right.

ENSIGN: ... to my statements. That I have done nothing ethically or illegal in this matter, and in the end, it's absolutely we feel that we will be completely exonerated.

SANCHEZ: It is my job to ask the questions, sir. And I thank you for appreciating my persistence. And, Senator, I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for coming on, sir.

ENSIGN: Thank you very much. And happy New Year.

SANCHEZ: All right. Likewise.

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