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Why an N.J. trial could make American politics even crazier

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file photo by Boyd Loving

By James Pindell Globe Staff  September 08, 2017

Amid the news coverage of hurricanes and all things President Trump, one could be forgiven for barely noticing that a corruption trial involving a sitting US senator began in New Jersey this week. In a few months, however, it might be the biggest thing we’re talking about — at least when it comes to politics.

That’s because the implications of the bribery case facing Democratic US Senator Bob Menendez could extend far beyond New Jersey. Why, you ask? Because it could ultimately affect the balance of power in Washington. Even stranger, it could lay the groundwork for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — the least popular governor in America — to appoint himself to the Senate.


Of course, many things could affect the balance of power in the Senate. The difference is this one could happen in a matter of weeks.

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When Is A Scandal Not A Scandal? When There’s A Democrat Involved


Corruption: A sitting U.S. Senator is currently on trial for bribery, and if he’s found guilty it could have major political ramifications. Haven’t heard about this case? That’s because the Senator in question is a Democrat.

A CNN story this week about the opening of the trial against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez noted that “Democrats are eager to avoid the subject of Menendez’s bribery trial.”

That headline would have been just as accurate if it said “Reporters” instead of “Democrats.”

Menendez in on trial for allegedly having sold his office in exchange for luxury vacations, private flights, and piles of campaign cash. In his opening remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Koski said “this case is about a corrupt politician who sold his Senate office for a life of luxury he couldn’t afford and a greedy doctor who put that senator on his payroll. … The defendants didn’t just trade money for power, they also tried to cover it up.”

It’s the first time in 36 years that a sitting U.S. senator has been on trial for bribery, which you’d think would make it front page news.

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Judge Denies Trial Delay Request From Menendez Co-Defendant

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file photo by Boyd Loving

A federal judge in New Jersey has denied a request by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s co-defendant to delay their upcoming trial on corruption charges.

July 6, 2017, at 8:21 a.m.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge in New Jersey has denied a request by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s co-defendant to delay their upcoming trial on corruption charges.

Judge William Walls ruled against eye doctor Salomon Melgen’s request Wednesday to delay the September trial.

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Menendez Judge Seeks Impartial Jury as Corruption Trial Looms

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David Voreacos
June 21, 2017, 12:18 PM EDT

Lawyers will begin questioning jurors Aug. 22 in Newark
New Jersey Democrat accused of taking bribes from top donor

A federal judge on Wednesday began trying to find 16 New Jersey residents who can be fair and impartial jurors in the September corruption trial of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and a top donor.

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is accused of improperly seeking to help Florida doctor Salomon Melgen in a Medicare overbilling case, a contract dispute with the Dominican Republic and with visa applications for three girlfriends. Prosecutors say Menendez accepted nearly $1 million in campaign donations and luxury travel, including a Paris vacation, from Melgen.

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Why Bob McDonnell Won’t Save Bob Menendez

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file photo by Boyd Loving

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez is facing trial this fall on corruption charges. His lawyers will claim the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Bob McDonnell case means the charges against Menendez cannot stand. But the effect of the McDonnell case on the Bob Menendez trial is likely to be pretty limited.

New Jersey Democrat Menendez and his co-defendant Dr. Salomon Melgen were indicted in April 2015. (You can find my detailed analysis of the indictment here.) The case has been on hold for two years while Menendez pursued claims that his prosecution is barred by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause. The trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected those arguments. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear his appeal, finally clearing the way for the case to go to trial.

But while Menendez was pursing his Speech or Debate appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court decided McDonnell v. United States. The Court reversed the convictions of the former governor of Virginia, holding that McDonnell did not perform “official acts” as defined by federal bribery law.

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Facing corruption trial, Menendez keeps a lid on successor talks

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file photo by Boyd Loving


03/22/17 05:22 AM EDT

Shortly after Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez was indicted on corruption charges in 2015, former Sen. Robert Torricelli started meeting with New Jersey political insiders.

Menendez’s term expires in January 2019, but Torricelli was signaling his interest in the seat should Menendez step down sooner. All the while, though, he continued to voice his support for the embattled senator.

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Supreme Court refuses to dismiss Menendez corruption charges

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file photo by Boyd Loving


03/20/17 10:48 AM EDT

Updated 03/20/17 03:12 PM EDT

The Supreme Court has rejected Sen. Bob Menendez’s attempt to throw out the bribery and corruption charges against him, setting the stage for a trial for the New Jersey Democrat this fall.

With Monday’s announcement, Menendez can no longer block the proceedings against him from moving forward, a major setback for his efforts to avoid criminal trial.

Abbe Lowell, Menendez’s lead defense attorney, said the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal was “disappointing,” but still said Menendez will be “vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial.”

“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to set a clear, bright line of the separation of powers to ensure that Congress remains an independent and co-equal branch of government, free of interference and retribution from the executive as the Framers intended,” Lowell said in a statement. “While the senator always understood it is rare that the Supreme Court hears any case before trial, given the gravity of the Constitutional issues raised, he believed it was important to try.”

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Democrat Senator Bob Menendez Denigrates Immigrants in Tweet

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file photo by Boyd Loving

February 16,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood Nj, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez says on Twitter what may have felt is the real purpose for illegal immigrants.

Earlier today the Senator commented on Twitter, “A #DayWithoutImmigrants means Senators & Senate staff couldn’t get their coffee because immigrants are part of our everyday lives”

It is clear from this Tweet that the Senator feels legal and illegal immigrants amount to nothing more than personal servants and flunkies .

Yes, #DayWithoutImmigrants, Senator it is a very difficult day for you, no one to fetch your paper, get your coffee, shine your shoes.
The Menendez tweet was met instantaneously derision

Vince Brunda ‏@VinceForNJ
@SenatorMenendez Wow, I’m sorry you were so inconvenienced, and please don’t stereotype immigrants as cafe workers. #daywithoutimmigrants

The On Blast Show ‏@TheOnBlastShow
@VinceForNJ @SenatorMenendez LOL too funny, make your own coffee them! Give them everyday off

Tony Buero ‏@BueroTony
@SenatorMenendez so what you are saying is you use them as slaves or personal servants? U have lost your mind!

Michael Novack ‏@mdnovack
@SenatorMenendez That’s horrible. However, as a mere commoner, I managed to get my own coffee this morning. Wasn’t difficult.

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Iran Nuclear Arms deal ‘a dangerous proposition,’ Menendez says



PATERSON – Appearing today at a firehouse to formally announce the awarding of a $7.5 million federal SAFER grant for the hiring of 49 new firefighters, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) considered a developing US nuclear arms deal with Iran, still maintaining misgivings about the plan as he understands its current contents.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Iran Nuclear Arms deal ‘a dangerous proposition,’ Menendez says | New Jersey News, Politics, Opinion, and Analysis


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Bob Menendez battles on, smacks Obama foreign policy at Armenian genocide commemoration

Robert Menendez, Bob Corker

HACKENSACK – Braced against the federal corruption charges filed against him, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) stood up to a bracing breeze at the Bergen County commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide and criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the issue. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Beleaguered Menendez battles on, smacks Obama foreign policy at Armenian genocide commemoration | New Jersey News, Politics, Opinion, and Analysis

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Menendez ,Melgen :It was a bro-mance, not corruption

Robert Menendez, Bob Corker

Carl Hiaasen: It was a bro-mance, not corruption


Miami HeraldApril 20, 2015

Sen. Robert Menendez says he’s angry because federal prosecutors “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption.”

The New Jersey Democrat is upset about being indicted on fraud and bribery charges for allegedly using his political clout to benefit his longtime pal, Dr. Salomon Melgen of West Palm Beach, Fla.

Melgen was also charged in the bribery case, and has separately been indicted for epic Medicare fraud. Like Menendez, Melgen says he has committed no crimes.

Except for the super-sized favors they did for each other, the friendship between the powerful U.S. senator and the multimillionaire eye surgeon really isn’t so different from any ordinary bro-romance.

If your best buddy needed a few bucks, you’d be there for him, right?

When Menendez last ran for re-election, Melgen donated $700,000 to a political action committee that gave $582,000 to the senator’s campaign – a heartfelt gesture with absolutely no strings attached, according to the doctor and the senator.

And when the government forced Melgen to return almost $9 million that he’d overbilled Medicare for eye procedures, it was nothing but personal devotion that motivated Menendez to start sending emails and making calls, trying to get the money back for his favorite ophthalmologist.

Read more here:

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Menendez praised for role in Iran agreement bill

Robert Menendez, Bob Corker

APRIL 14, 2015, 6:45 PM    LAST UPDATED: TUESDAY, APRIL 14, 2015, 6:54 PM

Facing criminal charges that pushed him into a supporting role instead of a leadership position on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez still notched a victory Tuesday when the panel unanimously approved a bill he cosponsored dealing with Iran.

And the White House, which had threatened a veto and lobbied Democrats against the bill, signaled that President Obama would be willing to sign it. White House officials cited changes that had been made to the bill, which gives the Senate the power to object before any international agreement lifts economic sanctions that Congress had imposed on Iran.

But Menendez said the administration saw it was going to lose.

“I think that it’s more the administration seeing where the will of the Congress was and coming to that conclusion” that the bill could not be stopped, he said.

Attending his first hearing since stepping aside as the committee’s top Democrat following his indictment April 1, Menendez was praised by both Republicans and Democrats for his efforts.

“I can’t imagine a senator being more constructive,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who succeeded Menendez as chairman of the committee in January when Republicans took control of the Senate. “There is no question over the last two years you have helped bring us to this point, where instead of debating things we in fact may well be taking up major legislation that will have a significant impact on security of Middle East.”

“I completely agree with you,” followed Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, who is now the panel’s top Democrat after Menendez ceded that role because of the charges. “Senator Menendez enjoys the strong thanks for the incredible leadership he has given … I hope Senator Menendez’s issues will be resolved quickly.”

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A defiant Menendez returning to D.C.


APRIL 12, 2015, 10:41 PM    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2015, 10:43 PM


Sen. Bob Menendez frowned Sunday when asked if a 14-count indictment accusing him of bribery and false statements means he betrayed the public trust.

“Absolutely not,” he declared to the “Fox News Sunday” camera, accusing prosecutors of taking “snippets of a story to make their case” and promising the whole story would come out in court.

“When all the facts are known, I know that I will be vindicated,” Menendez said.

In his first television interview since the April 1 indictment, Menendez made no revelations. But he telegraphed what his strategy may be as he returns to Congress this week and faces questions from the media about the case: Profess innocence, denounce prosecutors and leave detailed answers to some future date in court.

“He will not be running from reporters. It’s not his style,” spokeswoman Tricia Enright said last week. “Nevertheless, because this case is now in the courts, he won’t be able to say anything about it more than he has already.”

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Menendez Prosecution Endangers Democracy


Friday, 10 Apr 2015 11:42 AM

By Alan Dershowitz

Whenever a prominent political figure is indicted on charges of alleged corruption, serious questions arise. Is the prosecution part of a growing and dangerous trend toward criminalizing policy differences? Does it endanger the free speech rights of contributors? Will it constrain the legislative branch from serving as a check and balance on the executive?

These questions now are being raised in the context of the prosecution of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, as they previously were in several other ill-advised prosecutions including those of former agriculture secretary Mike Espy, former presidential candidate John Edwards, the late Sen. Ted Stevens, former Congressman Tom Delay, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The reason these questions arise is not because there is no corruption in government. It is because the laws distinguishing between constitutionally protected political activities and illegal payments to office holders are vague and indeterminate. These laws give prosecutors enormous discretion to determine whether to prosecute questionable transactions. And the courts refuse to second guess prosecutorial decisions even in cases where selective prosecution based on improper considerations seems evident.

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