September 25, 2023

Bob Menendez

“Powerful Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey was charged Friday with secretly aiding the authoritarian government of Egypt and trying to thwart the criminal prosecution of a friend in exchange for gold bars and cash under a corruption indictment that accuses him of using his foreign affairs influence for personal gain. Menendez was forced to relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but said he would not resign from Congress… A previous indictment of Menendez stemming from different [corruption] allegations ended in 2017 with a deadlocked jury.” AP News

Both sides condemn Menendez and call for him to resign:

“[The allegations] represent classic, even extreme, illustrations of how a senator might sell out his office if he were so inclined… Interference with ongoing criminal investigations is ‘third-rail’ stuff for elected officials, and manipulating foreign military aid can have profound policy implications…

“The present case involves several significant differences from the [previous corruption allegations]: Sen. Menendez does not have a longtime friendship with Hana, et al.; the official actions he took on their behalf were far more consequential; and the items of value he received from them were far more scandalous than the vacations he took with his pal Dr. Melgen. Bottom line: It will be difficult for him to prevail with the same playbook this time around.”

Scott A. Coffina, Fox News

“It’s pretty rare to get an old-fashioned bribery scandal at this level of national politics these days. Of course, there’s endless amounts of ‘legal corruption’ going around. Politicians regularly do favors to donors who fund their campaigns, since this is legal as long as there’s no direct quid pro quo. Ex-politicians or officials become lobbyists in industries they’d overseen. Foreign governments pay Donald Trump’s businesses. Hunter Biden rakes in big bucks for questionable work. Justice Clarence Thomas takes luxury trips…

“But even compared to Menendez’s last indictment — based on his accepting trips and gifts in a Clarence Thomas-like way — this seems to be at a new level. Envelopes of cash and gold bars for a sitting national politician seem like something out of an earlier era… The time to primary Menendez is now — and if Democrats miss this chance, they may rue their inaction when Election Day arrives.”

Andrew Prokop, Vox

Other opinions below.

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From the Left

“The Supreme Court’s threshold for bribery these days is almost indistinguishable from a Thomas Nast cartoon. Corruption, in the justices’ eyes, is when a railroad tycoon hands a politician a burlap sack with a big dollar sign on it. But that extraordinarily high hurdle allegedly didn’t stop New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez from leaping over it…

“The most striking thing about the indictment isn’t the Mercedes-Benz convertible, or the gold bars, or even allegedly helping to send military aid to a foreign government for personal gain. It’s the timeline. Federal prosecutors said the alleged bribery schemes took place ‘from at least 2018 up to and including in or about 2022.’ That would place Menendez in the middle of a bribery scheme less than one year after prosecutors abandoned the previous case against him.”

Matt Ford, New Republic

“Five years ago, the Justice Department indicted two Republican members of Congress, Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, for insider trading. President Trump publicly berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for putting two Republican-held seats at risk… Trump went on to fire Sessions and eventually pardon his two allies…

“On Friday, the Justice Department announced an indictment of New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez. Here’s what Biden said in response: nothing. No attacks on the attorney general, no complaints about hurting Democrats or insisting The Real Crimes Are On The Other Side. Likewise, Biden has stood aside as the department has brought criminal charges against his son without threatening the AG or interfering with the investigation.”

Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

From the Right

“The allegations in the current indictment put the time frame for Menendez’s latest misconduct between 2018, after the initial charges against him were dropped, and 2022…

“Through all of this, and through his previous corruption indictment, Menendez was unchallenged and entirely accepted back into the Democratic Senate establishment. He was quickly restored to his post as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his mistrial by then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). His 2018 reelection campaign was backed by fellow New Jersey Democrats Gov. Phil Murphy and Sen. Cory Booker.”

Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

“Menendez’s initial legal skirmishes, from which he emerged relatively unscathed, possibly provided the audacity for subsequent questionable actions. The perception that political figures can dodge repercussions might’ve been further cemented with revelations surrounding the Biden family, providing a political cover that selling influence has unfortunately become an unwritten norm in political circles…

“This continuous sequence of scandals, not just surrounding Menendez but within the broader political spectrum, underlines a concerning degradation of integrity in our political apparatus. It begs the question: How many more Menendez-like stories are simmering beneath the surface, waiting to erupt?… Some might smirk at his alleged indiscretions, but for many, his story serves as a potent reminder of the vast work needed to cleanse our political arena.”

Thomas Anderson, New York Post

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