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Thread: Feds prepare criminal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez

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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Feds prepare criminal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez

    First on CNN: Feds prepare criminal corruption charges against Senator Bob Menendez

    By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
    Updated 2:52 PM ET, Fri March 6, 2015

    Washington (CNN)The Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, alleging he used his Senate office to push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.

    People briefed on the case say Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on prosecutors' request to proceed with charges, CNN has learned exclusively. An announcement could come within weeks. Prosecutors are under pressure in part because of the statute of limitation on some of the allegations.

    The case could pose a high-profile test of the Justice Department's ability to prosecute sitting lawmakers, having already spawned a legal battle over whether key evidence the government has gathered is protected by the Constitution's Speech and Debate clause.

    The FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department's public integrity section, have pursued a variety of allegations against Menendez, who has called the probe part of "smear campaign" against him.

    The government's case centers on Menendez's relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who the senator has called a friend and political supporter. Melgen and his family have been generous donors to the senator and various committees the senator is associated with.

    Related: FBI agents search office of Florida doctor known as Senator's donor

    Investigators have focused in part on plane trips Menendez took in 2010 to the Dominican Republic as a guest of Melgen. In 2013, after word of the federal investigation became public, Menendez paid back Melgen $58,000 for the 2010 plane trips calling his failure to properly disclose the flights an "oversight."

    Menendez has denied any wrongdoing in his ties to Melgen. His spokeswoman did not immediately comment on CNN's report that the Department of Justice is preparing charges against him.

    One of the highest ranking Hispanic members of Congress, Menendez is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has become one of the Obama administration's most vocal Democratic opponents on two key foreign policy matters -- President Obama's decision to ease the trade embargo against Cuba and also his effort to engage direct negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program.

    Menendez advocated on Melgen's behalf with federal Medicare administrators who accused Melgen of overbilling the government's healthcare program, according to court documents and people briefed on the probe. Melgen was among the top recipients of Medicare reimbursements in recent years, during a time when he was also a major Democratic donor. Melgen's attorneys have denied any wrongdoing.

    Prosecutors also are focusing on whether Menendez broke the law in advocating for Melgen's business interest in a Dominican Republic government contract for a port screening equipment. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, at the time, considered donating port screening equipment to the Dominican Republic, which would have hurt the contract of Melgen-controlled company.

    Menendez, now serving his second full term as senator, led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2009-2011.

    During a Senate subcommittee hearing in 2012, Menendez didn't mention ICSSI, Melgen's company, by name, but he did press Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Rooney about an unnamed company who had a contract to X-ray cargo that went through all Dominican ports -- a contract that, he said, Dominican authorities "don't want to live by."

    "If those countries can get away with that, they will," the senator said. "And that puts American companies at a tremendous disadvantage."

    Menendez's office said at the time the senator's interest was based on his efforts to combat narcotrafficking in the region.

    Other lines of inquiry against Menendez had included allegations he solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, and that he violated the law helping win permanent U.S. residency for two Ecuadorian banking magnates, the Isaias brothers. The prostitution allegations collapsed after the purported prostitutes recanted their story, and the FBI didn't find evidence of wrongdoing in the Isaias matter, according to people briefed on the probe.

    The FBI probe has already spawned a legal battle between the government, Menendez and his former aides. Last week, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals briefly posted, apparently by accident, documents detailing legal efforts to block certain evidence and testimony the government wants to use.

    The documents were quickly put back under seal, but not before a reporter with the New Jersey Law Journal secured a copy and later published a story.

    According to the documents, Menendez's lawyers have sought to claim emails and testimony from aides is protected by the constitutional protections given to members of Congress in carrying out their duties. The speech and debate clause prohibits questioning of members of Congress about "legislative acts or the motivation for legislative acts."

    The fight centers in part on the Justice Department's attempt to compel testimony from Menendez's aides, some of whom have refused to answer questions to a grand jury.

    According to the documents, the government wants to question aides about a series of 2012 calls and meetings on Melgen's fight with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency.

    Among these is a meeting among Mendedez, Sen. Harry Reid and then Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The government is also pushing to use emails between Menendez's office and a CBP official about the Dominican ports issue.

    A federal district court ruled in favor of the government to compel testimony from Menendez's aides, but the appeals court reversed the ruling and ordered a hearing.

    "The parties primarily dispute the legislative character of Senator Menendez's two conversations with [then acting CMS administrator Marilyn] Tavenner and his meeting with Secretary Sebelius," the appeals court said. "These communications are not manifestly legislative acts because they are informal communications with executive branch officials, one of whom was at the time a presidential nominee whose nomination was pending before the United States senate."


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  2. #2
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    Seeing a corrupt politician go down is always good news. Moreover, seeing a corrupt politician that supports the liberal position on illegal immigration is extra good news!
    Last edited by MW; 03-10-2015 at 12:45 AM.
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  3. #3
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    I've never had any confidence or regard for this one. Sounds as if we are months away from enough to expect Congressional action upon him or a resignation. Sorry.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Defiant Sen. Menendez declares, "I am not going anywhere"

    Published March 06, 2015

    A defiant Sen. Robert Menendez declared, “I am not going anywhere,” Friday night amid reports the Justice Department is preparing to charge the New Jersey Democrat with corruption counts over allegations he used his office to help a Democratic donor.

    A person familiar with a federal investigation of Menendez told the Associated Press the Justice Department is expected to bring criminal charges against him in the coming weeks. The pending charges were first reported by CNN.

    Menendez told a press conference about four hours after the reports surfaced that he had “always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.”

    He added, “I fight for things I believe important…and for the people of our country. That’s who I am. “I am not going anywhere.”

    Menendez took no questions from reporters, saying that because of the “ongoing inquiry” he could not make any additional comments.

    The Justice Department would not comment on the criminal charges report, although DOJ sources are not denying that charges may be coming.

    Menendez' office did not confirm the reports, but defended the senator's conduct.

    In a statement, the senator's spokeswoman Tricia Enright said: "As we have said before, we believe all of the Senator's actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that. Any actions taken by Senator Menendez or his office have been to appropriately address public policy issues and not for any other reason."

    Attorney General Eric Holder also declined to comment on the case when asked by Fox News and President Obama ignored shouted questions by reporters as he left Marine One following a trip to South Carolina.

    The case against the powerful lawmaker, two years in the making, comes at a sensitive time for Menendez -- and the Obama administration. Menendez has been a leading critic of the direction of current diplomatic talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and has helped draft legislation meant to check the administration's power to negotiate a deal.

    As top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- and a Cuban-American lawmaker -- he also has criticized the administration's efforts to normalize ties with Cuba.

    The federal case involves Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, a friend and donor, and allegations of potential favor-trading.

    According to CNN, investigators looked at a plane trip the senator took as Melgen's guest to the Dominican Republic. They also looked at how the senator allegedly advocated for him with Medicare officials who accused him of overbilling and allegedly pushed his friend's business interests in the Dominican Republic.

    The New Jersey Law Journal, late last month, also reported on court documents in the case, which reportedly were posted by accident for a brief time. The publication said an appeals court has ordered a hearing into whether Menendez' aides can be compelled to testify to a grand jury in the case. The Law Journal, citing the court documents, said the case revolves around the billing dispute Melgen had with Medicare officials and the donor's deal to sell port-screening equipment to the Dominican Republic. In the latter instance, the documents reportedly said the senator's former chief counsel asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection not to donate old screening equipment to the Caribbean nation -- which would allow a Melgen-tied contractor to sell such equipment.

    Enright said Friday that Melgen is one of Menendez' closest friends but they cannot specifically address the claims.

    "The two have spent holidays together and have gone to each other's family funerals and weddings and have exchanged personal gifts. As has been reported, the start of this investigation is suspect," she said. "We know many false allegations have been made about this matter, allegations that were ultimately publicly discredited. We also know that the official investigation of this matter is ongoing, and therefore cannot address allegations being made anonymously."

    Various allegations indeed have swirled around the New Jersey lawmaker, including that he solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic -- allegations that have not been substantiated.

    The Justice Department's record of going after high-level lawmakers is mixed.

    They have won convictions against several House members, including former Republican Rep. Rick Renzi and former Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson. But the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, had his conviction vacated over prosecutorial misconduct. They also never went after Alaska Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, despite claims they were considering it years ago.

    Fox News' Chad Pergram, Jake Gibson and Jodie Curtis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
    Last edited by Judy; 03-07-2015 at 10:50 AM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    In the latter instance, the documents reportedly said the senator's former chief counsel asked U.S. Customs and Border Protection not to donate old screening equipment to the Caribbean nation -- which would allow a Melgen-tied contractor to sell such equipment.
    Why is US Customs and Border Protection donating our property to foreign nations to begin with? If this is surplus property of the United States, it is not supposed to be donated to anyone, it's supposed to be sold at an auction or if sensitive technology, destroyed. Isn't that right? I don't see a problem with a member of Congress intervening by a request not to do that. The agency can either agree or not. But the request itself is not wrong or doesn't seem to be.

    As to helping someone work through charges of over-billing, I also have no problem with that. Why is that wrong? Medicare makes mistakes, but even if they didn't and the donor was over-billing, by mistake themselves or even on purpose, there's nothing wrong with a member of Congress helping them sort it out. This is done all the time over one thing or another.

    So where's the meat in this beef?
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