Sen. Menendez officially charged by Justice Department

In March we reported the Justice Department was set to bring federal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez. Since the story broke, Menendez has appeared confident, calmly proclaiming his innocence in a follow-up press conference on March 6.

Now, after a month of lobbying by Menendez’s lawyers to drop the charges, DOJ has announced they are going ahead with the indictment and bringing 13 counts of corruption, including bribery and conspiracy, against New Jersey’s senior Democratic senator.

The investigation lasted for two years, as prosecutors have largely centered their case around two incidents where Menendez used his political influence to help a Florida doctor side-step federal Medicare fraud charges, specifically accused of over-billing the government by nearly $9 million, as well as steer a government contract his way in the Dominican Republic.

While Menendez calls the doctor his “friend”, he is also a long-time contributor to the senator’s reelection efforts, dating back to the mid-1990s when he started his Washington career as a member of the House of Representatives.

Surprisingly, this is only the second indictment of a U.S. senator in the last 20 years, and the first since 2008.

Despite the distinct rarity of the situation for someone in his position, Menendez says he plans to stay in office throughout the case.

As the former chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez still wields a lot of influence in congressional foreign policy-making as the Democrats’ ranking member now on the panel.

Sen. Menendez also has the support of Minority Leader Harry Reid, who recently called him “an outstanding senator”, despite his recent clashes with the Obama administration on Iranian nuclear negotiations and sanctions being lifted from Cuba.

 

[Washington Post] [Photo courtesy AP/Mel Evans]