Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted this afternoon on 8 counts of bribery, 3 counts of honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, and one count of making false statements. His largest political backer, Dr. Salomon Melgen (in photo on left) was also charged by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
The indictments were the result of a lengthy federal investigation that was initiated after media reports that Menendez attempted to intervene to thwart a Medicare-fraud investigation of Melgen, and that Menendez pressured government officials to further Melgen’s interests in a port security deal in the Dominican Republic.
Commentators on both the Left and the Right are suggesting that the impending indictment of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is retribution against Menendez for his recent criticisms of Obama administration foreign policy. While we concur that almost everything that Attorney General Eric Holder does is tainted by politics, a few points about the Menendez case are in order:
1) The reported charges against Menendez, that he tried to interfere with a Medicare fraud investigation of his largest donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, and that he went to bat for Melgen in the Dominican Republic port security deal, were not cooked up by the political operation at the White House.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) faces a primary election tomorrow against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who came within 1,100 votes of upsetting him two years ago, and Harlem preacher Rev. Michael Wolrund. If elected, Espaillat would be the first Dominican elected to Congress. In a June 6 televised debate, Rangel invoked Espaillat's ethnicity:
Just what the heck has he done besides saying he's a Dominican?...He wants to be the Jackie Robinson of the Dominicans in the Congress, which is ambitious, but the fact is, Jackie Robinson was a star before he reached the major leagues. And he's not a Jackie Robinson.
The Washington Post today reports that a federal grand jury is investigating Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for pushing a Dominican port security deal that would have meant a windfall for Dr. Salomon Melgen, a major donor. The post security deal was first reported in the New York Times on February 1, based on information provided by NLPC.
Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Peter Wallsten cited unnamed sources for the existence of the grand jury and a related investigation. According to the story:
Yesterday, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm questioned Senator Robert Menendez' veracity after his office claimed that he did not know that his ex-aide Pedro Pablo Permuy (in photo) was involved with ICCSI, a company partly owned by his mega-donor Salomon Melgen. Menendez sought to pressure administration officials to support a contract for port security in the Dominican Republic that would have provided a windfall for Melgen.
Sen. Bob Menendez's ties to a former Miami aide who could benefit from a controversial overseas port contract, which the Democrat pushed for, extend to an international business group that last year feted Spain's king and the U.S. secretary of state.
Frances Robles reports in the New York Times that an ex-aide to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) stood to benefit from a Dominican port security deal, along with Menendez benefactor Salomon Melgen. From the Times:
Mr. Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has pushed United States government officials to help enforce a contract that a company owned in part by one of his major donors, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, has with the Dominican government, which has refused to honor it.
A top executive at Dr. Melgen's security company will be Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former national security adviser and senior legislative aide to Mr. Menendez, according to a cousin of Dr. Melgen. Mr. Permuy's ties to the senator go back at least 20 years.
But Menendez' office told the Times that this is all news to the Senator:
Ever since the spotlight was placed on Dominican-born eye doctor Salomon Melgen and his large campaign contributions to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the question for us has been "What has Menendez done for Melgen?"
We believe that we have answer. After an extensive review of publicly available documents that link the two men, the answer relates to unusual actions on behalf of a port security company known as ICSSI.