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:
Last month, people with knowledge of the case said FBI agents were conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic and the United States concerning allegations against Menendez, including the role he played in advocating for the enforcement of the port-security contract.
The reporters point out:
Cases of political bribery are extremely hard to build and prove, according to ethics experts and public-corruption defense lawyers, and many such investigations fizzle with prosecutors never bringing charges.
This is absolutely true but grand juries are not empanelled for little or no reason. There is a certain threshold for prosecutors to cross in terms of circumstances and evidence. It is undeniable that this grand jury represents an escalation of the Menendez case.
Even if prosecutors do not bring bribery charges against Menendez, there are several other possible legal problems for the New Jersey senator. With extensive scrutiny now from law enforcement, major new organizations, and ethics watchdogs, this matter is not going away anytime soon.