Report: Feds to Charge N.J. Senator with Corruption

CNN reports New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez will be charged in the coming months with corruption stemming from dealings with a Democratic donor.

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Menendez

Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on charges against New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, CNN reports. The report, which cited sources briefed on the case, says federal prosecutors allege Menendez used his office to “push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.”

Menendez, a Democrat who served in the House from 1989 to 2006, was appointed to the post in January of 2006 after New Jersey Governor-elect Jon Corzine vacated the seat. He won re-election twice: Over Thomas Kean in 2006 (53-44 percent) and Joseph Kyrillos in 2012 (59-39 percent).

But a grand jury has been investigating Menendez since at least 2013, when news broke that the feds were interested in his dealings with Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.

Melgen is a longtime friend of Menendez. The grand jury investigation, the New York Times reported, stems from Menendez’s push for a contract.

Two years ago, Dr. Melgen, despite an apparent lack of experience in border security issues, bought an ownership interest in a company that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security. Mr. Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that holds sway over the Dominican Republic, subsequently urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the contract would be enforced, at an estimated value of $500 million.

Menendez has said the grand jury investigation is part of a “smear campaign” against him. He has denied wrongdoing in his dealings with Melgen. There is reason Menendez might feel that way: Explosive allegations involving underage prostitutes and Menendez in 2012 were fabricated. Menendez said it was a Cuban plot to harm his chances at re-election in 2012.

CNN says the corruption charges could come within weeks.