Indicted Senator Robert Menendez: “This Is Not How My Career Is Going to End”
Embattled New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez went on the offensive last night in the wake of news that he’d been indicted on federal corruption charges related to his dealings with Florida ophthalmologist/campaign donor Salomon Melgen.
The Department of Justice alleges that Menendez accepted gifts worth nearly $1 million — including flights on private jets, Caribbean and Parisian vacations, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions — in exchange for using his office to promote Melgen’s interests, including influencing visa proceedings for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends as well as contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions.
Menendez, in a blustery statement last night, says it’s a load of bull.
“I’m angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption,” he said, “and have chosen to twist my duties as a Senator — and as a friend — into something improper.”
Menendez — who has stepped down as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (a move he hopes will be temporary) — says he started his political career fighting corruption, so dirty dealing is just not how he rolls:
“I began my political career – 40 years ago – fighting corruption in city government. I publicly complained about illegal financial dealings in my city until the FBI investigated and the U.S. Attorney filed corruption charges against the mayor and others. I was called to testify for the prosecution. I received death threats. I wore a bulletproof vest for a month. That’s how I began my career in public service. And this is not how my career is going to end.”
As to why he’s stepping down from his post on the Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez wrote in a letter to Harry Reid, “While there is no caucus rule that dictates that I do so, I believe it is in the best interests of the Committee, my colleagues, and the Senate which is why I have chosen to do so.”
Menendez claims that prosecutors were “tricked” into starting the investigation into his and Salomon’s dealings, that he’ll be vindicated, and that, of course, the allegations are politically motivated.
Read the charges against Menendez, as well as his full statement, below.