Democrats are coping with the corruption charges leveled against Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a former Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Chair of the House Democrat Caucus.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, the federal judge in charge of the Menendez corruption trial rejected the defense’s central argument and denied their request to have the charges dismissed. Menendez must now make a case for his innocence, which will be decided by a jury.
Six weeks into the trial, the judge and jury have listened to the evidence brought forth by the prosecution, which argues that Menendez used his office to perform favors for Florida-based eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, in exchange for luxurious international vacations and massive campaign donations.
Melgen, also on trial with Menendez, was found guilty of Medicare fraud in April. As Christian News Alerts reported, one of the primary charges against Menendez is that he attempted to use his influence to reverse the decision from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for which Melgen paid $8.9 million.
The defense used the argument that the allegations against Menendez were based on “stream of benefits” theory. According to Menedez’s lawyers, the Senator only assisted Melgen “as opportunities arose.”
They then contended that the Supreme Court’s ruling in a corruption case against former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) invalidates “stream of benefits.” But US District Court Judge William Walls dismissed that reasoning.
“I see nothing in McDonnell that attacks the stream of benefits theory,” Judge Walls said Monday. “Payment may be made with intent to retain official services on an as-needed basis, so whenever the opportunity presents itself the official will take official action on behalf of the payer’s benefit.”
The defense had hoped to convince Walls to toss the case, but the Judge indicated he will proceed with the trial and have the defense team make their case before the jury. “The jury will decide what happened,” Walls said. “That’s why we’re going to the jury.”
If Menendez were found guilty of corruption and sentenced, his vacant Senate seat would potentially affect the course of legislation in the Senate. With a close 55-44 Republican majority, the absence of votes on any side can make a difference. Menendez’s stepping down would also open the door to the GOP capturing the seat. In light of this, Democrats have expressed an unwillingness to immediately disavow the New Jersey Senator.
As reported by Christian News Alerts, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with Senate Democrats, would not say whether he believes Menendez should resign immediately if found guilty. Interestingly, Menendez’s alleged abuses involve another prominent Democrat–former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid personally assisted Menendez in his efforts to secure favors for Melgen.
It was Reid who tried to pressure Obama administration officials into reversing the decision of Melgen’s CMS case. And Reid organized a meeting between himself, Menendez, and Obama’s Health & Human Services Secretary in order to help the Florida eye doctor.
Charges against Menendez have been upheld. Should he resign?
Melgen donated $600,000 to Majority PAC–and the donation was earmarked so they would specifically go to New Jersey Democrats. This is a damning piece of evidence that points to Menendez.
The Menendez trial is one of the most high-profile corruption cases in modern American history. The consequences could very well make history as well.