Erica Carlin| OPINION| Federal prosecutors in New York have said they intend to charge Democrat Senator Bob Menendez and his wife on Friday.
A press conference will be held today at 11:00 a.m. to announce the unsealing of an indictment charging Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, with bribery offenses in connection with their corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
“This would be the second time Menendez has been indicted. He stood trial several years ago but that ended in a mistrial. The New Jersey Democrat is up for reelection next year,” Politico reported.
“The first time Menendez was indicted, he had been accused of using his political influence to help a Florida eye doctor who had lavished him with gifts and campaign contributions. Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator in U.S. history to have been indicted on two unrelated criminal allegations, according to a list maintained by the Senate Historical Office,” the New York Post reported. “The new charges follow a yearslong investigation that examined, among other things, the dealings of a New Jersey businessman — a friend of Menendez’s wife — who secured sole authorization from the Egyptian government to certify that meat imported into that country meets Islamic dietary requirements. Investigators also asked questions about the Menendez family’s interactions with a New Jersey developer.”
“Menendez faces re-election next year in a bid to extend his three-decade career in Washington, and as Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate. Menendez’s political career had looked as though it might be over in 2015, when a federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted him on multiple charges over favors he did for a friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen,” the outlet added.
The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the US Congress, Robert Menendez, has been charged with corruption pic.twitter.com/gMDzhHA6tJ
— Sprinter (@Sprinter99800) September 22, 2023
Menendez was accused of putting pressure on government officials to settle a Medicare billing dispute in Melgen’s favor, obtaining visas for the doctor’s girlfriends, and assisting in the protection of a contract the doctor had with the Dominican Republic to provide port-screening equipment.
Menendez has always claimed innocence. His lawyers claimed that Melgen’s campaign contributions and gifts, which included trips on his private jet to a Dominican Republic resort and a vacation in Paris, were not bribes but rather tokens of their longtime friendship.
“Prosecutors are expected to meet with his lawyers in the coming weeks ahead of a final decision. New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has been under scrutiny by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The probe in part has examined whether he or his wife, Nadine Arslanian, received gifts in exchange for political favors, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Prosecutors also have investigated the circumstances surrounding a lucrative contract that a New Jersey businessman secured with Egyptian officials for certifying halal meat exports, the Journal has reported. The businessman, whom Menendez hosted in his office along with Egyptian officials in 2018, became the sole certifier of halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt the following year,” the outlet added.
In October, two sources familiar with the investigation told the news site Semafor that “prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have contacted people connected to Menendez in recent weeks,” and that “they have sent at least one subpoena in the case.”
A spokesman from Menendez’s office, Michael Soliman, told the outlet, “Senator Menendez is aware of an investigation that was reported on today, however, he does not know the scope of the investigation. As always, should any official inquiries be made, the Senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office.”
The outlet went on to report details of the first federal probe into Menendez during the Obama administration:
Menendez and a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, were indicted in 2015 for an alleged arrangement under which the doctor provided flights on a private jet and lavish vacations in exchange for the senator’s help with government contracts and other public favors. Menendez’s lawyers argued that the two men were simply good friends. The inquiry ended in a mistrial in 2017 after the jury failed to reach a verdict. (Melgen was convicted in 2017 of medicare fraud, and received clemency from President Donald Trump in 2021.)
The two people familiar with the investigation, one who is directly connected to the investigation and the other a New Jersey lawyer who has been told of the case, said that the broad outlines of the new inquiry are similar to the 2017 case. Both said that the new investigation involves an entirely different group of people, however.
Semafor correspondent Kadia Goba offered her insight into the case.
“Federal prosecutors rarely lose at trial, so it’s notable to see the Department of Justice return to Menendez after its humiliating public failure to convict him,” she wrote. “Public corruption cases also present special obstacles since a 2016 decision in which the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and ruled that prosecutors must find explicit evidence that gifts or donations were tied to official actions.