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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/08/15

Guests: Doug Hampton

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 pronunciation. 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 rampage. 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 Engel. 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 to Paris. 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 international backers? 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 into this. 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 Paris. 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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 Peninsula. 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 its bones. 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 right. 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 to fight. 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 fully clear. 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 that. 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 manhunt continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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? (APPLAUSE) 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 in 2009. 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, Doug Hampton. 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 February 2008. 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 lot. 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 that happens. 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 wife. 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 got prosecuted. 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: You`re welcome. 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 president? 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. HAMPTON: Yes. 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. HAMPTON: Yes. 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 with this. MADDOW: You thought that Senator Ensign would listen to Tom Coburn and that Tom Coburn -- HAMPTON: Absolutely. 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 us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (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 Nevada. 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. MADDOW: Yes. HAMPTON: I admitted that we were dealing with Nevada companies in that fashion. 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 me. 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, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back. Thanks. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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 LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END