If Robert Menendez is successfully prosecuted by a Democratic Justice Department, it will be an ironic twist for the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, whose career likely would have ended in 2017 had Jared Kushner not been the president’s son-in-law.
Kushner and his family are longtime donors to the Garden State’s Democrats, including Menendez, who was tried on bribery and related charges in 2017, along with his co-defendant and biggest campaign donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Menendez was represented by Abbe Lowell, who was also Kushner’s lawyer. (Lowell now represents Hunter Biden)
Among the allegations, the prosecution accused Menendez of pressuring U.S. officials to get the Dominican Republic government to honor a long-dormant port security deal with a company owned by Melgen.
The port security deal was uncovered by NLPC, and was the subject of a front-page New York Times story on February 1, 2013. NLPC provided information to the Times on an exclusive basis, apparently prompting, or at least expanding, the federal criminal investigation.
Aside from the Justice Department decision not to seek a retrial, the biggest mystery of the bribery prosecution was that Justice Department never flipped Melgen to testify against Menendez. The Doctor seemed to be a prime candidate to become a prosecution witness, already facing significant prison time for Medicare fraud.
Could it be that Melgen was told that if he served a couple years in prison, saving Menendez, that political efforts could be exerted later to free him? President Trump’s subsequent commutation of the balance of Melgen’s 17-year sentence during his last days in office confirmed to me that this is exactly what happened.
Melgen may have been the least deserving candidate for presidential clemency in history, and that is saying a lot when the competition is the likes of Marc Rich, pardoned by President Clinton in 2001.
More irony is in the fact that Menendez’ wife Nadine was also indicted. Their marriage in 2020 was cited as evidence that Menendez was cleaning up his personal life after allegations (to which NLPC was not a party) involving underage girls in the Dominican Republic. According to the Justice Department media release:
In June 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at the New Jersey home of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ. During that search, the FBI found many of the fruits of this bribery scheme, including cash, gold, the luxury convertible, and home furnishings. Over $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe — was discovered in the home, as well as over $70,000 in cash in NADINE MENENDEZ’s safe deposit box, which was also searched pursuant to a separate search warrant.
Menendez has engaged in transactional politics his entire career, which should have been over long ago.
photo: Department of Justice