Sadly U. S. Sen. Robert Menendez is expected in court today to face a federal indictment on 14 counts and a Forfeiture Notice. No one can accurately predict the outcome of these charges. Menendez says the federal government “cannot tell the difference between friendship and corruption.” While the lengthy indictment is replete with legalese, Count One of the charges, Conspiracy to Commit Bribery and Honest Service Wire Fraud, is not difficult to understand. It alleges “Robert Menendez and Salmon Melgen did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other… to commit an offense against the United States.”
Specifically Count One alleges “Menendez concealed things of value he solicited and accepted by knowingly and willfully omitting them from the annual Financial Disclosure Reports he was statutorily required to complete under the Ethics in Government Act. Specifically, in reports Menendez filed between 2007 and 2012, he never disclosed any of the reportable gifts that he received from Melgen.”
The charge provides dates, places, Menendez guests, dollar costs and services provided. They include “domestic and international flights on private jets, first-class domestic airfare, use of a Caribbean villa, access to an exclusive Dominican resort, a stay at a luxury hotel in Paris, expensive meals, golf outings, and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund.” As an example, the indictment alleges that regarding the Paris hotel, Menendez emailed Melgen requesting the room feature “king bed, work area with internet, limestone bath with soaking tub and enclosed rain shower, [and] views of courtyard or street.”
Count One goes on to document how “Menendez used the prestige, authority, and influence of his status as a U. S. Senator to promote Melgen’s personal and business interests with a U. S. ambassador, fellow U. S. Senators and Executive Branch officials, including a member of the President’s cabinet.”
Only time will tell how the court battle plays out. However, the tale is tawdry and all too familiar – NJ politicians breaking badly. Count One at least appears to be a credible and damning allegation.