Politicians rarely get held accountable for their crimes. But that’s not the way it’s going down this time.
And this US Senator was smacked with historic and unprecedented criminal charges.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife were indicted on bribery charges.
Federal prosecutors announced the charges against the 69-year-old Democrat on Friday, nearly six years after a previous criminal case against him ended in a hung jury. The latest indictment has nothing to do with the earlier charges that Menendez accepted lavish gifts in order to put pressure on government officials on behalf of a Florida doctor.
According to the Senate Historical Office, Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator in US history to be indicted on two unrelated criminal charges. Menendez is up for reelection next year, hoping to extend his three-decade career in Washington, and Democrats hold a slim Senate majority.
A message left for Menendez’s wife’s lawyer was not returned. Messages for Menendez’s Senate spokesperson and political consultant were left.
Menendez was first charged with using his political clout to assist a Florida eye doctor who lavished him with gifts and campaign contributions. According to a list maintained by the Senate Historical Office, Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator in US history to be indicted on two unrelated criminal allegations.
The new charges stem from a multi-year investigation into the dealings of a New Jersey businessman — a friend of Menendez’s wife — who obtained sole authorization from the Egyptian government to certify that meat imported into Egypt meets Islamic dietary requirements. Investigators also questioned the Menendez family about their interactions with a New Jersey developer.
Menendez is up for re-election next year in an attempt to extend his three-decade career in Washington, and Democrats hold a slim Senate majority.
Menendez’s political career appeared to be over in 2015, when a federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted him on multiple charges stemming from favors he performed for a friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
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 dropped the case in November 2017 after a jury deadlocked on charges of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy, and a judge dismissed some counts.
Menendez was later chastised by the Senate Ethics Committee for improperly accepting gifts, failing to disclose them, and then using his influence to advance Melgen’s personal interests.
However, Menendez was re-elected to the Senate by New Jersey voters months later. In a midterm election that broke the Republican grip on power in Washington, he defeated a well-funded challenger.
Melgen was convicted of healthcare fraud in 2017, but his sentence was commuted by former President Donald Trump.
Menendez is widely expected to run for reelection the following year.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, has been in public office since 1986 when he was elected mayor of Union City, New Jersey. He was a state legislator and served in the United States House of Representatives for 14 years. Menendez was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Gov. Jon Corzine when he became governor in 2006.
According to the Senate Historical Office, at least two other senators — Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, and Richard Kenney, D-Delaware — were indicted on multiple occasions while still in office, but their indictments covered overlapping allegations.
Kenney and Hutchinson were never convicted, and both served their full sentences. According to the Senate Historical Office, 13 senators have been indicted throughout history, with six convicted. Two of those convictions were thrown out.
Last October, Menendez made public the fact that he was the subject of a new federal investigation.
Stay tuned to The Federalist Wire.