Federal bribery, corruption trial begins Wednesday for Sen. Robert Men

Over two years after his indictment on federal bribery and corruption charges, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) goes on trial this
week in a New Jersey federal court, as prosecutors charge that the veteran Democratic lawmaker engaged in a scheme in which
Menendez received “lavish vacations” in exchange for the Senator using the power of his office to advocate for the business
interests of a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen.

In court documents submitted last week, the feds said the “bribery scheme began shortly after Menendez’s elevation to the
Senate in 2006
, when Melgen began a pattern of treating Menendez to weekend and week-long getaways in the Dominican Republic that would
continue for the next several years.”

Prosecutors charge that Menendez wrongly accepted gifts from Melgen, didn’t pay for expensive travel and accommodations,
but instead used the “currency of his Senate office to take official action to benefit the South Florida doctor.”

“Menendez enjoyed these flights and vacations free of charge. But, in a scheme to hide the trips from public view and keep
the corrupt pact secret, Menendez mentioned nothing of the gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms,” the feds allege.

The indictment also alleges that Menendez also helped Melgen deal with billing disputes involving Medicare, and when Melgen
was trying to get a cargo screening contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez has maintained that this was a friendship, and as such, did not rise to anything involving bribery or corruption.

After the indictments were announced in 2015, Menendez vowed to fight the charges, saying he had been under a “Justice Department
cloud” for several years.


In the halls of Congress, Menendez has said very little about his trial, carrying on with his regular business in the Senate.

Behind the scenes, lawyers for Menendez have been doing all they can to keep this trial from overtaking his day job.

One effort was to alter the schedule of the trial, to allow Menendez to get back to the Senate when needed for important
votes – but the judge overseeing the case rejected that legal move late last week.

The court did set a trial schedule for Monday through Thursday between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm – that could allow Menendez to
rush back to Capitol Hill for any important evening votes.

It would also leave his Fridays open for any business – but in recent years, the Senate has rarely conducted any roll call
votes on that day, instead letting Senators use that for home-state business.

For obvious reasons, there is a major political overtone for this trial, as Republicans made clear in recent days that they
want to try to get as much attention on the trial as possible – especially since a guilty verdict could well see Menendez
bounced out of the Senate.

And if that were to happen – then a Republican Governor, Chris Christie – would have the opportunity to choose a replacement
for Menendez.

On Friday, GOP media bookers were already touting the issue for reporters and radio shows, promising to get guests on the
air who would talk about the Menendez story.

Bribery. Conspiracy. Wire fraud. Violations of the Travel Act. Making false statements. Menendez faces some very serious
charges, as his fellow Democrats wonder whether he will survive this legal battle.