US senator accused of corruption
US Senator Robert Menendez staunchly defended himself Friday against potential federal corruption charges, saying he had not broken the law and declaring he was “not going anywhere.”
American media outlets said prosecutors plan to file criminal corruption charges against the powerful Democratic lawmaker relating to a long-standing investigation involving a Florida doctor who is a close friend and donor.
The two-year probe involves Salomon Melgen, a prominent ophthalmologist and businessman who contributed large sums of money to Menendez’s re-election campaign.
Menendez acknowledged an “ongoing inquiry,” citing it as the reason he would not take questions from reporters.
“Let me be very clear, very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” Menendez said in Newark, New Jersey.
“Every action that I and my office have taken for the last 23 years that I have been privileged to be in the United States Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and the entire country.”
He pointed to his efforts in Congress on terror, Iran and victims of devastating Hurricane Sandy.
“I fight for these issues and for the people of our country every single day,” Menendez said, in an impassioned defense.
“That’s who I am. And I am not going anywhere.”
Melgen is reported to have businesses in the Dominican Republic, and Menendez is alleged to have intervened on his behalf with the US government from his congressional office.
When asked directly whether he had authorized federal corruption charges against Menendez, Attorney General Eric Holder, appearing separately at an event, said: “I can’t comment on that.”
But CNN, citing people briefed on the case, reported that Holder signed off on prosecutors’ requests to proceed with charges.
In March 2013, when Menendez was the influential head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, The Washington Post reported he was under investigation by a Miami grand jury.
The senator noted that he and Melgen have been “real friends” for more than two decades, celebrating holidays, family weddings, funerals and birthdays together.
Menendez has been invited to Melgen’s villa in the Dominican Republic on several occasions, and had to reimburse the doctor for several trips after admitting to a mixup with air fares from his 2012 re-election campaign.
He was also alleged to have solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, but the purported sex workers later retracted the accusation.
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