Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Sen. Robert Menendez Bribery Trial Could Reshape Senate, Trump's Agenda

Screen Shot Senate Democrats Flickr
Christy Curtis | 07 September, 2017, 03:08

Menendez says he will exercise his constitutional right to attend his trial but acknowledged the conflict he faces if Democrats need his vote in the Senate.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is about to face corruption charges when his trial starts September 6 in the first federal bribery case involving a sitting senator in 36 years.

Menendez accepted flights aboard Melgen's private jets, vacations at Melgen's private villa in the Dominican Republic, and three nights at a luxury hotel in Paris to spend a weekend with his girlfriend, the indictment alleges.

Mendendez was charged in April 2015 for allegedly accepting gifts and campaign contributions as bribes in exchange for his political influence from a Florida doctor - charges both men deny.

In return for all of these favors, prosecutors are claiming that Menendez and his staff convinced Department of Health and Human Service regulators to brush aside claims that Melgen overbilled Medicare by nearly $9 million.

"This is what bribery looks like, " said Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Koski in opening arguments at U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey.

The America Rising PAC is not the only Republican group pointing out the political difficulties the Menendez trial poses for the Democratic Party.

Melgen is Menendez's alleged "patron", according to prosecutors in a recent trial brief - but defense attorneys say in court documents that he is simply a "close friend" of the senator. "But I will not be silenced".

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez's upcoming corruption trial has gotten very little attention from members of the media.

Menendez has stood firm in saying this will not happen, and congressional Democrats have largely stood by him.

"That's one thing that makes this case interesting", Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor in Newark, told the Times.

The defense contends this is not about corruption or bribery but about a long-term friendship. His successor would be appointed by the governor of New Jersey, now Republican Chris Christie.

But Christie is a lame duck, set to leave the governor's mansion in January.

Over two years after initial charges were filed, New Jersey Sen. "Furthermore, New Jersey will be shortchanged one Senator during critical moments, which is not something that will play will with votes", the America Rising Statement notes. If Christie finds himself in a position to replace Menendez, it is unclear whether that individual would serve until the next regularly scheduled election in November 2018 or if Christie's successor could call a special election sooner. Walls said in his denial issued Thursday.

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