VIDEO UPDATE: NEWARK,NJ APRIL, 1 2015—FBI indicts US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on 14 counts of official corruption including Bribery, Sen. Menendez denies all charges. Saying he “will be vindicated, and they (the DOJ) will be exposed”. Menendez added that he is “angry, ready to fight, and isn’t going anywhere”. Menendez is due in federal court tomorrow morning.
ATLANTA, GA April 1, 2015—Will United States Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)—one of Washington’s highest ranking Democrats being investigated for alleged misuses of power—resign amidst allegations of corruption?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been investigating the New Jersey Senator for approximately two years, specifically following the Senator’s relationship with former friend and campaign donor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Although the scope of the probe wasn’t clear at first, the FBI has continued investigating Menendez to determine if he solicited unwarranted donations and abused his influence with the Department of Homeland Security to benefit Melgen.
Investigators discovered that Menendez paid Dr. Melgen approximately $60,000, including the purchase of two round-trip tickets on a private jet to the Dominican Republic. These expenses were not included on the Menendez’s federal disclosure forms.
The FBI alleges that Menendez helped Dr. Melgen by intervening in a US Department of Homeland Security probe investigating the doctor’s alleged illegal billing practices. Investigators claim that Menendez used his political influence and ties with senior officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to quash the Melgen investigation.
Menendez, a Cuban-American hailing from Hudson County, NJ, has bucked the Democratic establishment and been an outspoken critic on the President’s foreign policy positions with Iran and Cuba.
Menendez advocated for tighter restrictions and increased economics sanctions on Iran, despite his continued support for the Obama’s emphasis on further dialogue. The Wall Street Journal reported that Menendez also challenged Obama stating “Mr. Obama’s deal with Cuba rewards the ruling Castro brothers while doing little to advance human rights”a position often taken by Cuban refugees and political conservatives.
Menendez has been accused of ethics violations before and criminal charges have never materialized. Some political observers say that these new charges against Menendez are politically motivated and are retribution from Obama for his public disagreements with White House.
The FBI claims that Menendez wrongly advocated on Melgen’s behalf out of loyalty for his political contributions. Public campaign records show that Melgen has given hundreds of thousands of political campaign donations Menendez and other Senate Democrats.
However, the major issue here is not how much money was given but whether Menendez used his official influence to lobby Department of Homeland Security officials in 2013 to not to conduct cargo screens for Melgen. Not screening cargo is not only breach in our national security measures but also might benefit Melgen and his business interests in a business deal regarding ports of entry in the Dominican Republic and alleged assistance in committing Medicaid and Medicare fraud.
In 2013 it was reported that Menendez interacted with an underaged prostitute in the Dominican Republic, which he denied. Then once the FBI raided Melgen’s office, the prostitution allegation resurfaced in the media. However, later that year, the Washington Post reported that one of the prostitutes recanted her story saying that she was pushed to lie about Menendez’s involvement.
The FBI’s 24-month probe flared in 2013 when Menendez recognized that he flew several different times on Melgen’s private plane to the Dominican Republic and at first neglected to appropriately pay for the excursions. Menendez consented to repay Melgen $58,500. His office later uncovered a third flight, from Florida to New Jersey in 2011, stating that he’d reimbursed Melgen $11,250 for that trip as well.
A year ago, Menendez revealed his election campaign records had paid a law office $250,000 for legal expenses connected with Department of Justice and Senate Ethics Committee investigations related to Melgen. Government records show that in 2012 Melgen got more in Medicare repayments than some other physician in the nation.
Now, in 2015, the FBI continues threatening Menendez with criminal charges, through anonymous osurces ‘close to the investigation’ but none filed as of yet. In response Menedez held a press conference yesterday and said:
“Let me be clear, very clear, I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordsance with the law” – US Sen. Bob Menendez
In this case the maxims “Innocent until proven guilty” and “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” seem diametrically opposed. While some say that this FBI probe is retribution for Menendez’s public critique of Obama’s foreign policy, its hard to believe when we consider that this investigation goes back to 2012 – and besides would the president really goon a such a witch hunt just for a senator’s opposing views? I think Not. The president doesn’t seem to take decisive action on anything except executive orders.
Of course, the other view here is that with all these allegations against Menendez it has to either be true or a concerted smear campaign by a rival. It is Washington, so we’ll never know. But it is odd with all this hype that no one has suffered any repercussions or consequences. If there’s proof that Menedez did break the law what will happen next?
Will Menendez Resign over FBI investigation, indictment? Will he simply apologize for an illegal mistake? Is that now acceptable for what once required immediate resignation and federal indictment?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brandon Brice is a Senior Contributor at PolitiWeek. He began his political career as an intern on Capitol Hill in the Office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, while serving as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Brice moved on to a fellowship in the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs. Other professional positions include his work as an Associate at the National Urban League, Director of Education and African-American Affairs in the Office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Director of Development for the Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia.
Mr. Brice’s media work includes an Opinion Column in The Washington Times, Communities Digital News and other publications. Brice is also a frequent guest on TV programs such as Huff Post LIVE, The Blaze, and more. Brice attended Howard University for a Bachelor’s in Business and earned a Master’s in International Affairs from Rutgers University, Eagleton Institute of Politics as well as additional graduate work at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs for a Master’s in Public Administration.
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