Sen. Coburn breaks long silence about Ensign

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oak.)  today broke his long silence regarding his alleged role in attempting to negotiate a seven-figure payment on behalf of recently retired Sen. John Ensign to his former campaign treasurer who Ensign  had an extramarital affair with.

Coburn made his most substantial comments on the matter to date were made public later in the day after  I wrote a story for Reuters this morning about the likelihood that the Department of Justice will reopen an investigation of Ensign.  The Senate Ethics Committee recently recommended that DOJ reopen its probe after the Department informed Ensign late last year that it was no long pursuing criminal charges against him.

My Reuters story this morning disclosed that the Senate had obtained more than 1,000 emails between Ensign and his attorneys and his senior staff that had not been seen by DOJ at the time they cleared Ensign.

More than a few of the 1,000 emails were about Coburn– one of which was quoted in my Reuters story.

The Senate Ethics committee report portrayed Coburn as intermediary in negotiating a potential seven figure payment from Ensign to his former campaign treasurer, Cynthia Hampton, who Ensign had the affair with, and her husband, Doug Hampton, who was Ensign’s closest  friend  and administrative assistant.  The Senate Ethics committee quoted several people who gave sworn testimony detailing Coburn’s alleged role– among them Doug Hampton, the Hamptons’ attorney, and a spiritual adviser to both Ensign and Coburn.  Coburn  said today that they were lying.

Regarding the Senate Ethics Committee report’s conclusions, Coburn said:  “That’s a totally inaccurate characterization of what happened.  What the story you hear is not an accurate reflection of what happened.”  Ensign made the comments during an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air Sunday.

Coburn told C-SPAN that he never negotiated on Ensign’s behalf, but instead simply passed information along from the Hamptons and their attorney and Ensign.

He also said that he proud of what he had done and would do “exactly” the same thing all over again:

“We put two families back together with multiple children — both marriages are stable right now,” Coburn said. “I’m proud of what I did and the way I did it. There’s nothing unethical about what I did.”

In fact, the Hamptons have said they are divorcing, and Cyndy Hampton recently also filed for bankruptcy.

It is unclear why Coburn broke his long silence at this point time and provided C-SPAN with his most extensive remarks to date on the subject since disclosure of the affair and his role.  One possible explanation is that instead of the story fading, Coburn’s role might face renewed further press scrutiny if and when the Justice Department reopens its probe of Ensign.

Coburn has previously said that he was a witness about his role before the Senate Ethics Committee, but has never commented as to whether he was ever asked for information by the Justice Department.

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