Taking the Bait on Menendez Story

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.

The Medicare investigation was initiated by the anti-fraud unit of HHS. (Melgen was the biggest recipient of Medicare reimbursement in the whole country in 2012). The port security deal was uncovered by the National Legal and Policy Center. We broke the story in a New York Times front-page story on January 31, 2013.  

2) This far-reaching investigation has been going on for two years. There have been at least two grand juries; the FBI has raided Melgen’s practice twice; and various prosecutors have committed significant man-hours and resources to it. As the New Jersey Law Journal reported last week, a great deal of legal sparring is occurring between Menendez’ counsel and prosecutors. Holder did not wake up one morning and decide to teach an Obama critic a lesson.

3) Menendez became a more ardent critic of the administration’s policy as the investigation heated up, not the other way around. Menendez is a complete opportunist, and sincere about nothing. If you examine the record, you will find that he’s been all over the lot on Israel, Iran and Cuba. I correctly predicted that Menendez would claim that he was targeted because of his criticism of Obama’s foreign policy. I’m surprised people who should know better are now taking the bait.

4) The White House would not put Harry Reid in jeopardy just to hit Menendez. Melgen’s company gave $700K to Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, which spent most of the money in New Jersey to re-elect Menendez. It is possible that the funds, in whole or in part, were the proceeds of Medicare overpayments.

It is true, of course, that Holder has not prosecuted other sitting members of Congress who should have been. But that does not mean that Menendez should not be indicted. As I wrote in my post on Friday:

A Menendez indictment will be a departure (that we welcome) for Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder, who has previously refused to prosecute sitting members of Congress.

Although Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was Censured by the House and resigned his Chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee (based on information exposed by NLPC), the Justice Department failed to criminally prosecute Rangel, even though he admitted not paying his taxes and failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on his disclosure forms.

Likewise, Holder failed to prosecute former Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) after an extensive FBI investigation spanning several years. As exposed by NLPC through front-page articles in the Wall Street Journal, Mollohan's business partners benefitted personally from hundreds of millions of tax dollars Mollohan earmarked to nonprofit groups in his district. He also sought to conceal the arrangement by failing to disclose income and assets on his financial disclosure forms.

More recently, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) has not been charged with any crime even though several of his close associates have been arrested and prosecuted, based on information first exposed by NLPC through the New York Times and the New York Post.

Now it’s possible that the leak of the impending indictments, as opposed to actual indictments, had a political motivation. It occurred, however, on a Friday afternoon on a snow day in Washington, DC. It’s also possible that the story was leaked from the Menendez camp to elicit exactly the reaction we are seeing now.


Senator Robert Menendez Facing Criminal Indictment?

Immigration Waiver for Rich Donors Followed Sen. Menendez Pressure

NY Times Profiles Menendez Donors

Menendez, Clinton State Dept. Helped Secure Visa for Fugitive Banker's Daughter (WNBC-TV New York)

Sen. Menendez Took Married Girlfriend on Junket to Puerto Rico; Stayed at Taxpayer-Supported Governor's House 

Sen. Menendez Denial on Permuy is 'Howler of the Day'

Sen. Menendez Claims He Didn't Know Ex-Aide Was Part of Port Deal

VIDEO: NBC Nightly News Reports on Menendez-Melgen Port Security Deal

Sen. Menendez Pushed 'Windfall' for Melgen in Dominican Port Security Deal