Ensign Says He's Cleared In DoJ Probe
Embattled Nevada Sen. John Ensign's (R) lawyer said Wednesday that he is no longer the subject of Department of Justice probe into the cover-up of his affair.
"The Department of Justice has informed us that Senator Ensign is no longer a target of its investigation and that it has no plans to bring any charges against him in this matter," Ensign lawyer Paul Coggins said in a statement.
The news could boost Ensign's chances of emerging as the Republican nominee in 2012. Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has been mentioned as a potential challenger, particularly if Ensign decided to retire and not seek re-election. If he's cleared, that prospect would be less likely.
The Department of Justice investigation centered on whether Ensign broke ethics rules and/or criminal laws in an attempt to cover up an affair. The investigation could have come with a prison sentence for Ensign.
Ensign isn't in the clear yet, though. The Senate Ethics Committee is still investigating him and that investigation could lead to sanctions or even expulsion from the chamber.
Jennifer Cooper, a spokesman for Ensign, said the senator hopes the Ethics Committee follows the Department of Justice's lead.
"Our office and the senator have been cooperative with this investigation, and it's important that the truth in this matter is finally coming to light," she said in a statement. "It is the senator's hope that the Ethics Committee soon follows suit."
Ensign was being investigated for the circumstances surrounding an affair with Cindy Hampton, the wife of Ensign's former adviser, Doug Hampton. When Ensign revealed the affair in June of 2009, it was reportedly because Doug Hampton had threatened to go to Fox News with the story.
The Nevada senator was also facing allegations from Doug Hampton that Ensign promised a high paying lobbying job to keep the affair under wraps.
On top of that, Ensign's parents reportedly gave the Hamptons a $96,000 check, but a complaint against that action was later dismissed by the FEC.