Democratic New Jersey senator on trial for official corruption
30 September 2017
US Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is currently on trial on charges of political corruption. He is specifically charged with twelve counts, including six of bribery and three of honest services fraud.
Among the accusations are three acts undertaken to benefit a friend and wealthy doctor, Salomon Melgen, who had made large political contributions to the senator, reportedly totaling more than $700,000. In one action, Menendez personally intervened to obtain visas for three female friends of Dr. Melgen. Menendez is also accused of having intervened with the departments of State and Commerce for favorable treatment for Melgen regarding a contract dispute in the Dominican Republic. Lastly, the Department of Health and Human Services is alleged to have been pressured by the senator to resolve a billing dispute with Melgen. The prosecution alleges that there was a close correspondence in the timing of substantial political contributions with favorable actions taken by Menendez.
In addition to large campaign contributions, court testimony indicates that Melgen gave lavish gifts to Menendez. In one instance, he is reported to have arranged for the senator to stay for three days in a luxury hotel in Paris, in a room with luxurious amenities, using nearly 650,000 American Express rewards points. These and other gifts, which the indictment characterizes as bribes, were initially not disclosed by the senator, as required.
The defense argues that all of this, the gifts and donations on the one hand, and the political favors on the other, were merely expressions of friendship rather than evidence of corruption.
In reality, all three acts are examples of the use of…