The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/08/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The newspaper office is now known as the scene of this terrorist attack.
But before it became a place where 11 people were murdered. Plus the
police officer outside on the road. Before that, it was just an office in
a nondescript building in the eastern part of Paris. And it was easy to
find. If you typed in “Charlie Hebdo” and Paris into Google Maps, it pops
right up, it`s very clear.
You can see the office door with the exact address, 10 Rue Nicolas-Appert.
A simple Google search. First hit. Anybody with a computer or a smart
phone can find exactly where they are. And can use the street view feature
to scope out the entrance to that again nondescript office.
But when the two suspects showed up to that office yesterday morning, they
went to the wrong place. They first try to force their way in here, marked
by that arrow. But that was not the right door, that door would not have
led them to the 11 people inside who they shot and kill apparently with
fairly methodical precision.
Even though they were wrong at first, they eventually figured it out. The
address they were looking for was a couple of doors down from where they
had started. They entered here after forcing a female employee of the
magazine to enter her security code so they could get in. And that`s how
yesterday`s attack began.
After shooting and killing their victims, the suspected gunmen then fled
northeast, in their getaway car, it was a black Citroen. They stopped less
than 700 feet away from the “Charlie Hebdo” offices. And that`s where they
shot and killed the police officer on the street. He was their 11th
victim. They continued north from there and then reportedly crashed into
another vehicle before they abandoned their getaway car.
The suspects then reportedly, carjacked another car and they took off. And
at that point, they were in the wind. It was not until late morning local
time, this morning almost 24 hours after the shooting, that there was
another potential sighting of these two suspected gunmen. And the
potential sighting, to see and you can get your geographic bearings here,
it was – as you could see Paris is marked by the star there.
You see it was northeast. It was about an hour northeast of Paris. That`s
where a gas station was robbed. The manager of the gas station tells
police the man who robbed him were heavily armed. And that they matched
the description of these two gunmen from the “Charlie Hebdo” massacre.
Throughout the day today, the bulk of the nearly 90,000 extra police
officers and security forces who`ve been dispatched throughout France to
search for these two suspects, the bulk of them focused their search very
near that gas station in the small towns of Longpont and Corcy, forgive my
They also were focused on the surrounding large and heavily wooded area.
Right around that area, it`s one of the largest protected forests in
France. It`s almost 33,000 acres of heavily wooded land. So police are
engaged in a huge search for these two men in this forest and in the
surrounding small towns, these little medieval towns, it`s about an hour
and a half northeast of Paris.
Meanwhile, the person who had been described in social media, a media
reports as the third suspect in the attack, been described as the driver of
the getaway car, that was 18-year-old named Hamyd Mourad. He turned
himself in. He turned himself in again, you can get your (INAUDIBLE)
bearings, further northeast from where they supposedly sighted the other
two suspects and have been looking for them since. He turned himself in,
in a town northeast of Paris but that`s just across the Belgium border.
That third suspect reportedly volunteered himself. He went to a local
police station and turned himself into authorities after seeing his name
circulating in the media as a suspect. French officials say that he has
not been charged and that they are apparently aware of reports that he may
have an alibi. Namely, that he was in school when the attack happened
yesterday morning in Paris. There are reports, mostly on social media from
people who said they are classmates of this 18-year-old young man.
They have taken to social media to say that he could not have been driving
the getaway car because he was in class with them at the time of the
attack. Obviously, those reports at this point are unconfirmed. Not very
much is known at all about that 18-year-old who turned himself in. We do
not know, of course, whether or not he actually was the driver of the
getaway car as authorities say they suspected. All we do know is that he
walked into a police station last night near the Belgium border far
northeast of Paris and he turned himself in.
Law enforcement officials in France have now turned to the public for help
in finding the other two guys. Right, because the one suspect they have in
custody, is in custody because he turned himself in. That 18-year-old,
it`s not like they tracked him down somewhere or they knew where to look
for him. The only reason they`ve got him is because he came forward
voluntarily. And apparently wants to clear his name.
The other, too. The two suspected gunmen the two brothers are still on the
loose tonight. And the police say now they need public`s help in trying to
find them. And if this part of the story is ringing sort of an American
deja news bell for you is because about a year and a half ago, we had a
version of this unfolding in one of our major cities. It was three days
after the Boston marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured
almost 300 others.
It was three days after that authorities here in U.S. decided to turned to
the public for help in finding the Boston marathon bombing suspects. By
that point, they had poured over thousands of hours of surveillance footage
from the marathon attacks. And they had found this one moment that they
thought might be key. These two young men walking very calmly along the
side of the street. You see the backpack there which ended up being key.
They couldn`t identify who these two young men were. And so they weighed
the potential benefits and the potential risks of letting the whole world
know that they had these images. That these were the guys who they thought
might have planned and orchestrated that terrorist attack. They weighed
the upsides and the downsides and they decided that they were going to go
for it. They asked for help publicly.
And almost immediately after they asked for public help, the actual
physical chase for those two suspects in the Boston bombing began. The
suspects were on the run, they shot and killed the police officer at MIT.
They hijacked a car at a gas station outside of Boston. It was less than
an hour after that hijacking that one of the two suspects, the older
brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a confrontation with police in a
Boston suburb of Watertown.
His younger brother Dzhokhar apparently ran over his older brother as he
fled the scene and that`s how he died. But Dzhokhar, the younger brother,
got away. Watertown was put under a shelter in place order. People were
ordered to stay in their homes. Police went door-to-door looking for the
younger brother, for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It seemed like he just disappeared
into thin air. Hours passed. The next day turned into evening.
When the governor of Massachusetts finally lifted that shelter in place
order, letting anxious residents leave their homes for the first time that
day, even though the suspect hadn`t been found.
Just before 7:00 p.m. on that Friday, more than four days after the
bombings, a resident of Watertown went outside, apparently to check on his
boat that was parked on a trailer in his yard. Lifted the cover of the
boat, saw a bloodied body hiding there. That was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, that
randomly was how he was finally captured.
That was the Boston bombing suspects. Ironically or not, Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev`s trial started this week. It started on Monday in Boston.
And there are some weird similarities here, right? Two suspects, in both
cases, both young men, brothers, who have been radicalized to commit
allegedly these gruesome acts of violence and then evade capture. In the
case of the Boston bombing suspects, it was almost five days before
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught.
We`re all now bracing ourselves for the prospect that it may take a long
time to find the suspects who are now in France presumably somewhere
outside of Paris. Maybe they`re hiding in that dense wooded area, maybe
not. If they are in that forest, if they are still in France, trying to
evade capture, even if they have crossed borders or certainly trying to
evade capture somewhere else in Europe now, one of the factors that we now
have to consider in terms of whether or not they are going to be found,
whether or not they have trained and prepared for this sort of thing.
Surviving and escaping the police from their 88,000 police officers looking
for them, in terms of figuring out how well-suited they are to evade this
manhunt. How well prepared they are for this. How much they`ve thought
through. How much they`ve prepared for it. How well trained they are.
We`ve got an important new piece of information about that today.
Two senior U.S. counter terrorism officials tell NBC News tonight that the
older of these two suspects, the older brother, his name is Said Kouachi,
he reportedly traveled to Yemen in 2011 to receive training from al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda`s Yemen offshoot is usually called Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula. And that group, according to these sources, is the group that
trained one of the brothers, one of the two suspects in the Paris shooting
According to one of those two U.S. counterterrorism sources, the training
for the older brother lasted several months in Yemen. Additionally
tonight, a separate U.S. Homeland Security official has confirmed to NBC
News that both brothers had been known to the United States and were in the
U.S. terrorism databases. The source tells NBC News that both brothers had
been on the U.S. no-fly list, quote, “for years”.
But tonight and overnight in France, a massive manhunt continues. And
these suspects are still nowhere to be found. The police are placing their
best hopes right now and not just in detective work, but also in appeals to
the public to please tell the police anything they know.
Joining us now from Paris is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard
Richard, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to see you.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It`s
always good to talk to you, Rachel. I`m sorry to be here in Paris, one of
my favorite cities in the world, for such a terrible circumstance. But
it`s always good to talk to you.
MADDOW: Yes. Richard, do you have any sense of I guess the confidence
level of authorities that they know where to look, that they know how to
look, that they have the kind of tools that they think they need in order
to find these guys? Do you have any sense of the confidence level in the
investigation and where they are focusing?
ENGEL: The competence level is very high. The French intelligence
agencies, the French counterterrorism authorities are among the best in the
world. This is a modern country. If you saw the amount of equipment that
was being deployed today and the gear that these paramilitary forces and
police forces were wearing, it left you with absolutely no doubt that they
have the equipment, they have the training.
The question is, do they have the key piece of information? Where are
these two brothers hiding? Most of this manhunt today was focused outside
of Paris about an hour north of here and they were going house-to-house
looking. There was some rumors that perhaps they had fled into that nearby
wooded area, the national park. But we also heard rumors that they had
gotten into a car and were heading on a fairly major highway on their way
And there was something of a scramble here in the city as police were going
to set up a dragnet to catch them on their way into Paris. And that did
leave a few doubts in my mind that they have a real solid sense of where
these suspects are. They`re looking, but until they find them, I don`t
think we were going to know for sure if they – if they ever were in that
area to the north of Paris.
MADDOW: Richard, these new reports that at least the older brother may
have trained with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen for months, a
few years ago, does that change either the way the authorities are thinking
about the attack, thinking about how it might fit into some larger plot
that this might have been part one of? There might be more of – you know
further parts of these plans.
Does it changed anything about the way they`re thinking about how these
guys might try to elude capture?
ENGEL: Well, I think it`s very important to understand who these people
are. There`s two sides. You want to find the individuals and that`s a
manhunt operation, like a prison break. You want to just locate the
individuals before they do more harm and to – and to bring them to
justice. But then there`s the larger intelligence picture. What drove
them to this? Who are their possible associates? Do they have major
And several indications at this stage are pointing to some sort of Yemen
connection. First, the Yemeni group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,
you mentioned earlier, that group specifically had threatened the satirical
magazine that was attacked, specifically marking for death the editor-in-
chief, that`s one thing that the group in Yemen had done. And then what we
learned today from these two U.S. counterterrorism officials that the older
brother, Said, who previously had been taught to be the weaker of the two,
the follower of the two – of the two brothers, the one who was manipulated
When we heard today that he had also received training months of training
in Yemen in 2011 that is another piece of the puzzle but they are not the
only pieces. There were also French officials who say that they – that
one or both of the brothers travelled to Syria only returning earlier this
summer. And al Qaeda is operating in Syria, so as ISIS, so are a variety
of other groups.
So at this stage, we don`t know which if any of the – of the radical
groups they were affiliated to. But we – we do have one more piece of the
puzzle that is completing a picture, tying them to Yemen`s al Qaeda cell.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent live for us in
Richard, again, I`m – I agree with you, this is a terrible circumstance to
be in Paris, but I`m glad that you`re there for us. Stay safe. Thanks for
staying with us. Thanks.
ENGEL: You bet.
MADDOW: That point of – that Richard was just making about potential
affiliations, potential associates from the question about whether this
might be part of some ongoing plot, some sort of larger plot or that it
might have been directed by others in some way, we did get one other piece
of that puzzle today. And it was a surprising one. And that`s story is
next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: President Obama made a surprise detour this evening. Just before
6:00 Eastern, Marine One landed inside the gates of the White House as the
president returned from his trip to Phoenix today. But instead of going
inside the White House after the helicopter dropped him off on the lawn,
the president, instead, got in the motorcade and headed to the French
embassy in Washington D.C.
Once he was at the embassy, he signed a condolence book for the victims of
yesterday`s terrorist attack in Paris. Quote, “On behalf of all
Americans,” he wrote, “I extend our deepest sympathy and solidarity to the
people of France following the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. A
allies across the centuries, we stand united with our French brothers to
ensure that justice is done and our way of life is defended. We go forward
together, knowing that terror is no match for freedom and ideals we stand
for, ideals that light the world. Viva la France.”
You see it there in the president`s own hand. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So we`re in day two now the manhunt for the two brothers suspected
of carrying out the massacre of a dozen people at Paris magazine “Charlie
Hebdo`s” offices yesterday. Two senior counterterrorism officials tell NBC
News that the older of the two brothers, Said Kouachi, traveled to Yemen in
2011 and received several months of terrorist training from an al Qaeda
affiliate there before returning to France.
He reportedly trained in small arms – small arms combat, marksmanship and
other skills with the fighters of the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian
Yesterday, at least one witness at the scene of the attack in Paris told
the media afterwards that these two attackers said at the scene of the
crime that passersby should tell the media that this “Charlie Hebdo” attack
had been committed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. So this new
information today about this direct tie, at least reportedly between the
brothers and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula now sort of has more meat on
U.S. officials also say tonight that the names of both brothers were also
on the radar for American intelligence, including both of the brothers
being on the U.S. no-fly list for years.
Well, since the attack happened, and since the brothers` names and photos
surfaced as suspects, there have been bits of biographical detail and some
– you know information about potentially relevant affiliations for these
guys. That it popped up all over the place.
Well, I have to say most of these details about affiliations, people who
they knew, people who they may have come in contact with, what their lives
are like, most of these details, honestly, are still unconfirmed and pretty
sketchy. The reason you`re seeing so much speculation and trafficking in
these details is because they`re of interest for a very direct reason. All
It is an open question as to whether or not yesterday`s massacre at the
offices of that magazine is part of an ongoing plot. A plot that may have
a second act or that may involve other people besides these two brothers.
One of the few things we do have specifics and checkable and knowable
information about is the criminal history of the younger of the two
brothers, Cherif Kouachi. He was arrested in 2005 while trying to travel
to Iraq to go fight U.S. troops in Iraq. He never made it there. He was
arrested. Was ultimately put on trial. Not just with the one other young
man he was traveling with trying to get to Iraq.
He was put on trial as part of a larger group that was essentially tried
for working in concert, working together to funnel fighters into the Iraq
war. Even though, he personally was not successful in getting there that
group did reportedly get almost a dozen guys successfully sent over to Iraq
So 2005 was when he was arrested. He served time like three years waiting
for his trials as prosecutors assembled that case between 2005 and 2008.
It appears that even though he was convicted in that case and sentenced,
his sentence seems to have basically applied sort of retroactively to the
time he had already served awaiting trial. Details on that are not yet
What is clear, though, is that in 2010 he was picked up again. We didn`t
know this yesterday but we know it now. In 2010, he was picked up again
and he was held for several months in conjunction with an attempted prison
break. French police arrested 14 people and a plot to bust out of prison a
man who`d been convicted of masterminding a Paris train station bombing in
1995 that injured 30 people.
Cherif Kouachi was one of the people who was picked up for questioning in
that plot in 2010. He was picked up and held for three months under
France`s anti-terror laws but they didn`t try him. He was later freed for
lack of evidence. So he was never prosecuted for that case. But police
now said that in their investigation of that case, they found evidence on
Cherif Kouachi`s computer indicating that he had been seeking out and
watching online jihadist videos and al Qaeda`s speeches and stuff like
We got that detail on Cherif Kouachi, the younger of the two brothers,
because of his criminal record. Now the older of the two brothers, as far
as we know, he does not have a criminal record. But now we know that while
his younger brother was being questioned by police and held for three
months, and while they were reportedly finding al Qaeda speeches and
jihadist content on the younger brother`s computer in 2010, U.S. officials
now say that within a year of that the older brother, the one with no
criminal record, he was on his way to Yemen to train with an al Qaeda
affiliate for months.
That is something that we understand now, that we did not understand
yesterday. Again, sorting out what is confirmable and knowable from what
is rumor in this case continues to be a work of art. It`s hard work and
it`s stuff gets reverse but following that criminal trail and what were
told by U.S. counterterrorism officials is the best we`ve got to go on now.
We`ll let you know more as we know more as we learn more and as this
MADDOW: We`ve got an exclusive coming up tonight on “The Interview.”
Three thousand pages of internal Department of Justice`s documents were
just released after a good government group put the Department of Justice
to court to force these documents out. This group had initially requested
these documents under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Justice
Department said no, we wouldn`t hand them over.
The group then sued the Department of Justice and said you have to release
this stuff. They ended up winning their case in court and that is how
these 3,000 pages have just been forced out. Now that these documents have
finally been pried out of the very unwilling hands of the Justice
Department, one of the most inexplicable political scandals of the past
decade is finally, finally now getting (INAUDIBLE).
And the man at the center of it all, the man who seems to have basically
been the victim in the scandal but who is also the only person ever
prosecuted for it. He exclusively is our guest next on “The interview.”
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, it was June 1st, 2009, the country had just inaugurated a
brand-new president. Barack Obama was a few months into a year one of his
presidency. But already, in the spring of 2009, Republicans were starting
to think about who they could run the next time around in order to beat him
and make him a one-term president.
In that June, on June 1st, 2009, one of those Republican who saw
himself as the guy who could beat Barack Obama, he traveled to Iowa in
order to test out his presidential stump speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Imagine a country that actually
respects the Constitution enough where we appoint judges and justices to
the Supreme Court that respect the constitution, that protect the Bill of
Rights, including the Second Amendment. That`s the kind of America I want
to see. Together, you and I, that`s the kind of America we can build.
That`s the kind of America we will build if we care enough. Will you join
me in that effort?
Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Very smooth. That was Republican Senator John Ensign of
Nevada, turning up in Iowa, of all places, to test the presidential waters
And it was not just speech in Sioux City, Iowa. John Ensign also
travelled to nearby Le Mars, Iowa, where he stopped at a local ice cream
parlor, to glad-hand Iowa voters, and to, again, deliver a speech touting
his conservative credentials and laying the groundwork for a John Ensign
presidential run maybe some day.
That was June 1st, 2009. In a matter of two weeks, John Ensign`s
presidential campaign was very much over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENSIGN: Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my
marriage. It is absolutely the worst thing that I`ve ever done in my life.
I will not mention any names, but the woman I was involved with, and
her husband, were both close friends and they both worked for me. Our
families were very close. That closeness put me into situations during a
very difficult time in my marriage which led to my inappropriate behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On June 1st, John Ensign was a Republican presidential
hopeful tramping all over Iowa. Fifteen days later, not only was he never
going to be president, he was potentially heading for the clink. That
announcement from John Ensign in June 2009, set off one of more incredible
congressional scandals that we have seen in a very long time. And it
revolved around John Ensign and his long-time friend and top Senate staff,
OK, go back, couple of years before we just showed you. Go back to
November 2007, Doug Hampton and his wife, Cindy, and their kids. They live
in a nice house, and a nice place called Summerlin, Nevada. It`s basically
a suburb of Las Vegas on the west side.
And in November, 2007, their very nice home was burglarized. In the
aftermath of their house being broken into, the Hamptons moved in with
their very dear friends, the Ensign family.
The Hamptons not only both worked for John Ensign, Doug was a top
Senate aide, Cindy Hampton did bookkeeping for John Ensign`s campaign
organizations. They were not only both employed by John Ensign, the Ensign
family and the Hampton family were very close. They took vacations
together. They socialized together. They spent a lot of time together.
And after the Hamptons home was burglarized, they needed a place to
stay and they stayed with their friends, the Ensigns. And that apparently
seems to have been where the trouble began. The break-in happened November
2007. The following month, Christmastime 2007, Doug Hampton came across
text messages on his wife`s phone which led him to the conclusion that his
wife and Senator Ensign were having an affair.
Needless to say, there was a confrontation. Both families sat down
together. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. It was a big mistake.
It`s never going to happen again.
But apparently, after the New Year, and into January and February of
2008, the affair kept going – which is amazing because Doug Hampton was
working every day very closely at the time with John Ensign, up to and
including John Ensign and Doug Hampton going together on a trip to Iraq in
While they were in Iraq together on this congressional delegation,
Doug Hampton discovered more evidence that his wife and his employer, the
senator, were still, for lack of a better term, shtupping. Quote, “I was
having problems with my phone, so I asked John, hey, can I use your phone,
I want to call Cindy. He said, sure. In his contacts list, he instead
scrolls to Aunt Judy, not Cindy Hampton but Aunt Judy? Like that was his
covert cover-up name for Cindy Hampton. And then I realized, wow,
something is still seriously wrong.”
What do you do when you`re in Iraq in the middle of a war zone with
your boss and you realize your boss is still sleeping with your wife?
Apparently what you do is call your boss` roommates back home in
Washington. John Ensign was a very conservative senator, publicly pious,
religious right senator. He lived at the C Street House in Washington,
which was a shared rooming house for members of Congress who are all part
of a religious fellowship group that`s often shorthanded as C Street. You
may remember a few years ago, we spent a lot of time covering C Street here
on this show.
After coming back from Iraq, Doug Hampton contacted the religious
conservative lawmakers and their sort of spiritual advisor, guy named Doug
Coe, and asked them to intervene with Senator John Ensign, to get him to
stop this affair.
Quote, “Hampton said that on Valentine`s Day 2008, the C Street
leadership and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma helped him confront Senator
Ensign.” Quote, “Tom really kind of takes the helm, Hampton recalled. Oh,
he`s smoking. He is one upset man. And then Senator Ensign kind of breaks
down, saying, I made a mistake, I really screwed up.”
The group at C Street, in this intervention, they forced Senator John
Ensign to write a letter, this letter, and send it to Cindy Hampton, a
letter ending their relationship. And the letter is a doozy, right?
“Cindy, this is the most important letter I`ve ever written. What I
did with you was wrong. I was completely self centered, only thinking of
myself. I used you for my own pleasure not letting thoughts of you and
Doug and your children come into my mind.
I betrayed everything I believe in, I lied to myself over and over.
Doug has been a great friend to me over the years and I threw that all away
over wanting to feel good.”
There`s some stuff about restoring their relationships with God and
basically the point is the whole thing is over, sincerely yours, John.
That letter was sent to Cindy Hampton overnight via Federal Express.
But, apparently, once the letter was sent, Senator John Ensign called Cindy
Hampton, told her, yes, that letter was on its way, but she should ignore
it, he`d been forced to write it, and he really didn`t mean it.
Two days later, Doug Hampton stood unbelieving in a Las Vegas hotel
parking lot, calling at the cars of his wife and employer hotel parking
He again called C Street, called C Street back to complain that the
intervention had not worked. This was February 2008.
For that, there`s another confrontation. But this time, John Ensign
told the Hamptons that part of the way this is going to resolve is they
could no longer work for him.
Remember both the husband and the wife, the mother and father in this
family both work for John Ensign. Now that the affair has happened and has
been exposed, it`s starting to become kind of a complicating thing for John
Ensign, with his Senate buddies all knowing about it and all this stuff.
John Ensign`s solution in all of this was apparently to fire the
woman he`s having an affair with and she`ll fire her husband. But
apparently, he decides he`s going to sort of try to make it right with
them, at least a little bit.
Two things happen thereafter. Doug Hampton is formally severed from
the senator`s payroll in 2008. And, around that time, around April, May
2008, two things come to pass that basically sort of look like payment from
Senator John Ensign to the woman he`s been having this affair with and the
husband he cuckolded in order to do that.
First thing is this – it`s a check for $96,000 paid to Doug and
Cindy Hampton and two of their three children. I don`t know what the other
kid did to get left out. It was written to the family, and it was drawn
from the account of John Ensign`s very wealthy parents. That`s one thing
The other thing that happens is that John Ensign apparently calls
around and lines up some lobbying jobs for Doug Hampton.
OK. Fast forward a year, John Ensign is planning he`s running for
president 2009. But this whole chapter in his life with the affair and
everything, it doesn`t seem resolved, at least not resolved enough for him
to be running for president.
First of all, the lobbying that Doug Hampton was doing over the last
year is illegal. There`s a cooling off period by law that says after
you`ve left the Senate as a top staffer, you can`t lobby for a year. Doug
Hampton has been lobbying. That`s one problem. John Ensign set him up a
lobbying job, and he`s been lobbying. That`s one problem.
Another problem is that there are continuing negotiations between the
Hamptons and the Ensigns over money. At one point, pious, conservative,
family value Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma gets involved in the
negotiations again, reportedly trying to talk Doug Hampton into receiving a
smaller payment from John Ensign than Hampton had been demanding.
Then, when the whole thing came to light, honestly, when the whole
thing blew up later, Tom Coburn, when it was all came to be publicly known,
Tom Coburn was asked by the press to explain exactly what his role had been
in trying to negotiate this payment between the senator and the family of
his mistress, Tom Coburn said he would never reveal his role in those
negotiations. He told “Roll Call”, “That is privileged information that I
will never reveal to anybody, not to the ethics committee, not to a court
of law, not to anybody”, pounding his chest.
Senator Coburn explained that the reason his role in those financial
negotiations was privileged and he would always keep it secret is because,
he explains, when he was talking to John Ensign about how much money to pay
the family of his mistress, quote, “I was counseling him as a physician.”
Tom Coburn`s medical specialty is obstetrics. He`s an obstetrician.
And who knows, it`s possible John Ensign was giving birth at the time he
was talking to Tom Coburn about these things. But, otherwise.
After those negotiations fell apart and John Ensign was heading off
to Iowa to stoke his own political fires and make people think of him as a
potential president, Doug Hampton basically took things into his own hands.
Or, at least he took matters to FOX News.
On June 1st, 2009, John Ensign was in Iowa giving his stump speech.
Ten days later, on June 11th, Doug Hampton wrote this letter to Megyn
Kelly, who is a host at the FOX News Channel. He was basically trying to
give her the story about Senator Ensign and his affair with his staffer`s
Quoting in part, “Senator Ensign`s conduct and relentless pursuit of
my wife led to our dismissal from the senator`s staff in April 2008. I
would like to say he stopped his heinous conduct and pursuit upon our
leaving, but that was not the case.”
Doug sent that letter to FOX June 11th. FOX apparently decided not
to pursue it.
Four days later, on June 15th, he forwarded a copy of that letter to
this guy, Senator Rick Santorum, friend of John Ensign from C Street. He
was then working as a FOX News contributor.
Basically, as far as I can tell, sort of asking Rick Santorum to
help, to intervene in this whole mess on his behalf. Instead, what Rick
Santorum did was he apparently forwarded that e-mail from Doug Hampton,
forwarded that email straight to John Ensign, thereby letting John Ensign
know that this was all about to become public.
Rick Santorum tipping him off that he ought to get ahead of the
story. Rick Santorum forwarded that Doug Hampton email to John Ensign on
June 15th. On June 16th, John Ensign went public, gave his press
conference, admitting to, quote, “absolutely the worst thing I`ve ever done
in my life.”
A sex scandal is not a crime, adultery is not a crime, family values,
hypocrisy is not a crime. Illegal lobbying and conspiring to set someone
up to illegally lobby, that is a crime.
Ultimately, the Senate Ethics Committee investigated John Ensign in
this matter. They hired a formal federal prosecutor to conduct the
investigation. It was a big investigation and a rigorous one. The report
was damning when it finally came out.
The Ethics Committee report said the committee found substantial and
credible evidence that Senator John Ensign conspired to violate lobbying
laws by arranging those lobbying jobs for Doug Hampton, that he lied about
that mysterious $96,000 payment from his own parents, that he obstructed by
deleting emails after he had been formally told and instructed that he had
to retain that kind of information.
The Senate Ethics Committee almost never does this, but they
recommended to the Department of Justice that John Ensign be prosecuted for
those alleged crimes.
And the Justice Department decided not to. They decided, instead,
they were going to prosecute Doug Hampton.
John Ensign arranged those lobbying jobs for Doug Hampton, when
honestly it was illegal for him to be lobbying. As a one year cooling off,
they were violating it. John Ensign arranged the jobs.
And you know what? The person who Doug Hampton lobbied once he had
those lobbying jobs was John Ensign.
He set him up in these lobbying jobs so he could be lobbied by them,
and John Ensign took action that Doug Hampton lobbied for him to take on
those meetings – all at a time when it was illegal, all at that time when
John Ensign had set up the whole thing. But Doug Hampton is the one who
He ended up pleading guilty and getting a year`s probation. Criminal
record. He got a year`s probation. He got a criminal record.
John Ensign got out. He quit the Senate rather than have to testify
to the Ethics Committee under oath. He`s now a veterinarian.
CREW, the good government group that sued for access to the
Department of Justice files in this case sums up their opinion about this
story as such: “This case, more than any other public corruption
investigation we have ever seen, is just so troubling. If you`re powerful,
it makes it look as if you can get away with anything.”
How did all of this happen and Doug Hampton is the only one who got
prosecuted? And John Ensign is now getting cat vaccinations in Vegas? How
is that possible?
That was a very long introduction. Anything I missed there?
Joining us now for “The Interview” is Doug Hampton, former friend and
staffer for former Senator John Ensign of Nevada.
Mr. Hampton, thank your for being here.
DOUG HAMPTON, FORMER FRIEND AND STAFFER FOR FORMER SEN. JOHN ENSIGN:
MADDOW: That was a very long introduction. I`m sure there were
parts of it that I misstated. Is there anything I should correct there?
HAMPTON: No, I think you were fairly spot on there. I did contact
Rick to let him know that there was some validity to the validity to the
letter that I sent Megyn. They really misconstrued that, you know? She
had Kelly`s court.
Prior to the letter being sent, my attorney and the first group of
Ensign`s attorneys had met and decided that, you know, at the end of the
day, if you bring any charges to the senator, there`s a statute of
limitations. So, truth of the matter is, we`re OK.
MADDOW: And those discussions had already happened by the time you
sent that letter?
HAMPTON: Correct. The reason I sent the letter was to let you know
I don`t think it`s OK. Just because there`s a law, a statute of
limitations, just because you think there`s nothing that I can, in fact, do
against what he`s done doesn`t mean that I`m OK with the story and I`m OK
with what happened and the way that it happened.
MADDOW: You wanted it to be known what had happened. You wanted it
to be known –
HAMPTON: The truth is important. I think the truth is critical.
Why would we want to make decisions based on lies? Why would we want
people running our country who are liars?
MADDOW: Was part of your decision there because he was running for
HAMPTON: You know, it`s funny you brought it up. The biggest reason
I ultimately approached him with a legal team was number one, it was – it
became unbearable to live with what had happened, and what he had done and
what he had orchestrated and Mike Slanker and others, and Tom Coburn.
But he went to Iowa. So, in my mind, this man thinks this is all
over with. This is all done. I`m going to go on with my life. I`m going
to go on with the – possibly the president.
MADDOW: He thought he had buried it.
HAMPTON: He had buried it. Only a person that had buried it can go
off and do what he did.
MADDOW: When the Senate, when people who are in the Senate talk
about the Senate, they talk about it as a club.
MADDOW: They mean it in a positive way. They talk about the
collegiality and what a great body, what a great place it is to work. In
your case, the clubbiness of the Senate seems more sinister.
MADDOW: When you went to Tom Coburn, what were you hoping to get
from him? What did you want him to do? What did you expect?
HAMPTON: The truth of the matter is it`s much like why John Lopez,
chief of staff of Ensign, didn`t go to Senate Ethics when I started calling
on him. At the time, I realized that I don`t know who to call on for help.
I don`t really generally think that Senate Ethics is going to do anything.
I need someone that has the kind of power and sits in the same seat as John
that has the wherewithal to approach him and say, you just can`t get away
MADDOW: You thought that Senator Ensign would listen to Tom Coburn
and that Tom Coburn –
MADDOW: – strong enough, powerful enough.
HAMPTON: Absolutely. As did Doug Coe, as did everyone that I had
consulted, they also believed that Tom had the character, had the fortitude
to address a very difficult issue and tell Ensign that if you don`t handle
the thing properly, I`ll go to mention (ph) and I`ll make sure that things
get handled correctly.
MADDOW: Doug Hampton is our guest. We`re going to take a quick
break if you don`t mind and come back.
I should note at this point in “The Interview”, though, that we did
reach out to former Senator John Ensign today. We reached out to him
through his veterinary office in Las Vegas. His staff told us that Mr.
Ensign was unavailable and would not even be receiving any messages at this
time, but we tried.
And, Senator Ensign, if you`re out there and you`re watching, I feel
a feeling that you are, we would love to talk to you about this, too.
But we`ll have more with Doug Hampton when we come back. Stay with
MADDOW: Our guest for “The Interview” tonight is Doug Hampton. He`s
a former top aide for disgraced Nevada Senator John Ensign. We`ve got more
of our exclusive interview with him, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: I will not mention any names,
but the woman who was – I was involved with and her husband were both
close friends and they both worked for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us once again for “The Interview” is Doug Hampton,
former friend and former top staffer for former Senator John Ensign of
Doug, thanks for staying with us.
Let me ask you specifically about that $96,000 check. What were the
circumstances of that check? Who gave it to you and what did you
understand it was for?
HAMPTON: Specifically, it was really for Cindy because Cindy
couldn`t keep her job anymore. John fell compelled to give her a couple of
years. She made approximately $4,000 a month.
So, it was really specifically for Cindy. It really had nothing –
MADDOW: Implicitly it was severance, even though it was portrayed as
a gift from his parents?
HAMPTON: Correct. It was portrayed as a gift because they found out
Doug said that`s ridiculous. So, they kind of scrambled and tried to make
sure that they handled the issue properly, but this was specifically for
Cindy. It had nothing to do with me.
MADDOW: Justice Department decided not to prosecute Senator Ensign
as we mentioned. You ended up pleading guilty and serving a year probation
on these lobbying charges.
Do you understand why they prosecuted you and not him – even though
he set you up in the lobbying jobs and he`s the guy you lobbied?
HAMPTON: Sure, I do. I admitted to it.
HAMPTON: I admitted that we were dealing with Nevada companies in
But I believe that they would come in and do a proper investigation,
that they would really genuinely care what the truth was. I didn`t think
the Department of Justice would stop five months before Ethics stopped. I
thought they would do a better job and in doing so, they would understand
that John Ensign, with the help of Mike Slanker, with the help of some
other people, orchestrated me leaving.
I never needed to look for a job. They created a job immediately for
me to go to because John wanted me out of his staff. So, he solicited the
help of Mike Slanker to open up November Inc. back in Nevada and employed
MADDOW: The firm that hired you. Yes.
HAMPTON: And he personally orchestrated what it would take in order
to get me out and get me back on my feet. So, when you talk about me
soliciting John or looking to John for a job, none of those things are
true. John orchestrated it all. John orchestrated all the relationships
and he told me what to do.
I think the mistake that I made was I didn`t know – my wife and I
worked for him, our entire income was tied. I didn`t know what to do. I
had solicited the help of another senator. I had gone to him personally.
I didn`t know what to do except deal with what he was doing and hoping that
at some point in time someone would step up and stop the insanity.
MADDOW: And it`s not – he quit. But he`s never been prosecuted and
he`s never fully explained his role in this.
Again, we asked Senator Ensign if he would talk about it tonight.
Maybe after seeing this interview, he will. We live in hope.
Doug Hampton, former staffer to Senator John Ensign, who`s really had
his life pretty much torn down by this whole incident. Thank you for
trusting us enough to talk to us about it tonight.
HAMPTON: Yes. Appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you,
We`ll be right back. Thanks.
MADDOW: I want to thank you for being with us for this rather epic
and slightly stressful show tonight.
Now, our ongoing coverage here on MSNBC of the Paris manhunt after
yesterday`s terrorist attack. That continues now on “THE LAST WORD WITH
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