UPDATE #2: LA Times reporting Menendez to step down “temporarily” as Ranking Dem on Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Via Associated Press, Senator Bob Menendez has been charged with using his office to improperly benefit Dr. Solomon Melgen, the Miami eye doctor and high-donor who the Senator has described as a family friend.
A New Jersey federal grand jury today issued a 13-count indictment of Menendez on charges which include conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud.
Both Sen. Menendez – in a press statement early this month, after which he took no questions – and Dr. Melgen have denied any wrongdoing.
Dr. Melgen’s Florida offices were raided by the FBI several times over several months, the most recent time early this year. In 2012 Melgen received more than $21 million in Medicare reimbursements more than any one doctor in the country. The investigation has been going on for more than two years. Prosecutors believe Menendez made improper efforts to help Melgen in a dispute with federal regulators over Medicare charges, and also in an attempt by the doctor to gain a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
You will remember that the Dominican Republic also figures in a wild story pushed by right-wing rag Daily Caller, run by operative Tucker Carlson, that alleged underage prostitutes were procured there for Menendez. The young women involved later recanted their story.
The investigation also centers on trips Menendez took on Melgen’s private plane. The Senator has acknowledged that he flew on Melgen’s plane to the DR without properly paying for it. He later reimbursed the cost of the flights.
Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has previously said he’s done nothing wrong and that he and Melgen have been close friends for a long time.
Until the Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate, Menendez was Chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee; he is now Ranking Member.
He is only the second U.S. senator to face a federal corruption indictment in the last 20 years.