Sen. Menendez Formally Charged With Corruption

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 01, 2015 4:15 PM
Sen. Menendez Formally Charged With Corruption

This day was coming. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been formally charged with corruption relating to dealings and interventions he made on behalf of one of his donors. The embattled Democrat vows to fight the indictment, and definitely ruled out resigning. 

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told reporters in March (via WaPo):

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on public corruption charges by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., according to the Associated Press.

After a more than two-year investigation, Menendez faces charges for what prosecutors believe were improper efforts by Menendez to help Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based doctor who was also a contributor to Menendez’s campaigns and his longtime friend. Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf in a dispute with the federal regulators over Medicare charges and in a bid by Melgen to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez, would be only the second U.S. senator to face a federal corruption indictment in the last 20 years. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and suggested that any gifts he received from Melgen were part of a close, personal friendship that dates back to the early 1990s.

Federal prosecutors are also expected to unveil charges against Melgen connected to the gifts-for-favors allegations.

The Post noted that this case could last months, even years–and that Menendez's legal team tried desperately to convince Attorney General Eric Holder's top deputies not to file the charges. Menendez is the second U.S. Senator to be charged with corruption in two decades.  

UPDATE: Via National Journal: Menendez will step down as the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee.  He hopes this move will be a temporary.

UPDATE: Via FBI press release: Menendez has been indicted on 14 charges ranging from bribery to making false statements

Menendez, 61, of Union City, New Jersey, and Melgen, 61, of West Palm Beach, Florida, were indicted in the District of New Jersey for one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, eight counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud. Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.

According to allegations in the indictment, between January 2006 and January 2013, Menendez accepted close to $1 million worth of lavish gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions of dollars to Melgen and to support the visa applications of several of Melgen’s girlfriends.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that, among other gifts, Menendez accepted flights on Melgen’s private jet, a first-class commercial flight and a flight on a chartered jet; numerous vacations at Melgen’s Caribbean villa in the Dominican Republic and at a hotel room in Paris; and $40,000 in contributions to his legal defense fund and over $750,000 in campaign contributions. Menendez never disclosed any of the reportable gifts that he received from Melgen on his financial disclosure forms.

According to allegations in the indictment, during this same time period, Menendez allegedly engaged in three efforts to use his Senate office and staff to advocate on behalf of Melgen’s personal and financial interests. First, Menendez allegedly pressured executive agencies in connection with a conflict between Melgen and the government of the Dominican Republic relating to a disputed contract that Melgen purchased to provide exclusive screening of containers coming through Dominican ports. Second, Menendez allegedly advocated on behalf of Melgen in connection with a Medicare billing dispute worth approximately $8.9 million to Melgen. Third, Menendez allegedly took active steps to support the tourist and student visa applications of three of Melgen’s girlfriends, as well as the visa application of the younger sister of one of Melgen’s girlfriends. Throughout these efforts, Menendez allegedly engaged in advocacy for Melgen all the way up to the highest levels of the U.S. government, including meeting with a U.S. cabinet secretary, contacting a U.S. Ambassador, meeting with the heads of executive agencies and other senior executive officials and soliciting other U.S. Senators, all in order to assist Melgen’s personal and pecuniary interests.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.