U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was indicted today for corruption by a federal grand jury.
Menendez reportedly will appear in Newark federal court tomorrow on the criminal corruption charges.
This development comes on the same day that the U.S. Justice Department announced that it won’t criminally prosecute Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before a House committee. Lerner was the former government official at the heart of the IRS-Tea Party targeting scandal.
The legal problems surrounding Sen. Menendez, 61, which were previewed last month when news of his likely indictment leaked, center on his close relationship with Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, who was also indicted today.
In a 14-count, 68-page indictment, prosecutors accused the senator “of using the influence of his office to advance the business interests of a longtime friend and political supporter in exchange for luxury gifts, lavish vacations and more than $750,000 in campaign donations…Menendez intervened on Melgen’s behalf in at least two disputes, one with federal regulators over Medicare charges and the other involving a bid by Melgen to secure a port security contract in the Dominican Republic, according to the indictment,” The Washington Post explained.
As the Inquisitr previously chronicled, Bob Menendez and Hillary Clinton were supposedly involved in helping a wealthy Ecuadorian national who contributed thousands to the Democrats gain entry into the U.S. by waiving a previous travel ban previously imposed in connection with alleged visa fraud.
Unproven allegations surfaced in 2012 that the New Jersey senator partied with prostitutes while in the DR.
In a brief public appearance this evening, Sen. Menendez — who has denied any wrongdoing — declared that he would be cleared and that “I am not going anywhere. I’m angry and ready to fight because today contradicts my public service and my entire life.”
“Charges of bribery — which carry a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars — are often difficult for prosecutors to prove. DOJ will have to show a direct link between any favors and a campaign contribution or illegal gift, a tough legal standard to meet. The seriousness of the bribery allegations make a plea deal less likely, according to sources close to the New Jersey Democrat,” Politico reported.
While Menendez has been a reliable vote in the U.S. Senate for virtually the entire Obama agenda, Ted Cruz and others — perhaps Menendez himself — have suggested that the charges could be payback for vocally opposing the president on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and for criticizing a flawed deal with Iran on its nuclear program.
Menendez was the chair of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee until the Republicans captured both branches of Congress in January. As a result of the charges, Menendez will voluntarily step away from his position as ranking Democrat on the panel. He will also abstain from any voting on the Loretta Lynch nomination for U.S. attorney general, which is still pending in the Senate.
Sen. Bob Menendez is serving his second term of office, which ends in 2018. If he leaves office before the term expires, Gov. Chris Christie would have the opportunity to appoint a replacement who would hold the seat until a special election takes place.
Added: On Thursday, Sen. Menendez pleaded not guilty in Newark federal court on all corruption charges.
[Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images News]