N.J Senator Rips Obama for Cuba Actions

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is furious at President Obama for a historical deal with Cuba that paves the way for the normalization of the relationships between the two countries.

Here’s the backstory: U.S. contractor Alan Gross has been held by the Cuban government since 2009. Today, the administration of Raul Castro agreed to free Gross — and another man, held by the Cuban government for 20 years — in exchange for three Cubans convicted of espionage in 2001.

The deal, which should be announced this afternoon, paves the way for a huge change in U.S.-Cuba relations. Obama is expected to announce a loosening of travel restrictions, and start discussions on re-opening the U.S. embassy there. It was closed in 1961.

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Jersey’s Menendez Says Cuba Behind Smear Plot

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator’s attorney asserts that the plot was timed to derail the ­political rise of Menendez (D-N.J.), one of Washington’s most ardent critics of the Castro regime. At the time, Menendez was running for reelection and was preparing to assume the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.

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Sen. Bob Menendez Banned From Russia

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is banned from Russia, the Star-Ledger reports:

Menendez was one of six federal lawmakers who along with a number of advisors to President Obama were banned from Russia in retaliation for U.S. economic sanctions imposed by the president.  The president announced the sanctions today over what he called the “illegitimate” annexation of Crimea by the Russians.

“President Putin’s military invasion and annexation of Crimea is brutal, totally unacceptable, and sadly returns us to a period of Cold War aggression and hostility,” Menendez, who is chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way but, if standing up for the Ukrainian people, their freedom, their hard earned democracy and sovereignty means I’m sanctioned by Putin, so be it.”

The question now: Is Vladimir Putin still welcome in New Jersey?