Alternate headline via Dave Weigel: “DOJ confirms that Bob Menendez is a New Jersey politician.”
There’s no louder Democratic critic of Obama’s Iran deal than Menendez and now here he is, about to be indicted. Hmmm. Maybe I spoke too soon in questioning Lee Smith’s theory that the White House has decided to start destroying the Iran-deal skeptics on its own side.
People briefed on the case say Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on prosecutors’ request to proceed with charges, CNN has learned exclusively. An announcement could come within weeks. Prosecutors are under pressure in part because of the statute of limitation on some of the allegations…
The government’s case centers on Menendez’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who the senator has called a friend and political supporter. Melgen and his family have been generous donors to the senator and various committees the senator is associated with…
Menendez advocated on Melgen’s behalf with federal Medicare administrators who accused Melgen of overbilling the government’s healthcare program, according to court documents and people briefed on the probe. Melgen was among the top recipients of Medicare reimbursements in recent years, during a time when he was also a major Democratic donor. Melgen’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors also are focusing on whether Menendez broke the law in advocating for Melgen’s business interest in a Dominican Republic government contract for a port screening equipment. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, at the time, considered donating port screening equipment to the Dominican Republic, which would have hurt the contract of Melgen-controlled company.
Remember Salomon Melgen? Two years ago, news of Menendez’s seemingly shady meddling on his behalf was all over righty blogs, often tangled up with accusations that went nowhere about Menendez supposedly having hired prostitutes. (The prostitution claims aren’t part of the feds’ investigation, per CNN.) Not only was there a strong stench of influence peddling surrounding their relationship, Menendez has already had to reimburse Melgen for $58,000 after it came out that the donor had allowed the senator to use his private jet. The evidence of the free flights emerged after — ta da — an FBI raid on Melgen’s offices in early 2013. The feds have been sniffing around the two of them for a long time.
In fact, I think Dan Foster’s theory of the Iran/indictment timing is closer to the mark than the White House retaliation theory:
It’s hard for a Democratic senator to accuse a Democratic president of partisanship and politicization during a long-running DOJ investigation … unless that senator has made himself a conspicuous enemy of the White House on a key policy matter. Maybe that explains, at least partly, why Menendez has been so unusually willing to throw roundhouses at O on Iran. The harder he fights, the easier it is to present suspicions over his dealings with Melgen as a frame-up rather than something legitimately criminal. Hmmm.
Exit question: If/when Menendez resigns, will Chris Christie abandon a presidential primary he can’t win and run for a Senate seat he can’t win instead?
Update: A compromise theory from Ace. Maybe he’s guilty and on Obama’s sh*t list.
— Ursus, Director of Weather and Banana Programming (@AceofSpadesHQ) March 6, 2015