(CBrief) – The Justice Department is considering filing criminal charges against a leading Democratic senator, according to a Friday report.
The DOJ is weighing its charging options against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) after a lengthy investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Prosecutors are expected to meet with his lawyers in the coming weeks ahead of a final decision,” the WSJ said, citing unnamed sources.
The outlet continued:
New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has been under scrutiny by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The probe in part has examined whether he or his wife, Nadine Arslanian, received gifts in exchange for political favors, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.
Prosecutors also have investigated the circumstances surrounding a lucrative contract that a New Jersey businessman secured with Egyptian officials for certifying halal meat exports, the Journal has reported. The businessman, whom Menendez hosted in his office along with Egyptian officials in 2018, became the sole certifier of halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt the following year.
In October, two sources familiar with the investigation told the news site Semafor that “prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have contacted people connected to Menendez in recent weeks,” and that “they have sent at least one subpoena in the case.”
A spokesman from Menendez’s office, Michael Soliman, told the outlet, “Senator Menendez is aware of an investigation that was reported on today, however, he does not know the scope of the investigation. As always, should any official inquiries be made, the Senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office.”
The outlet went on to report details of the first federal probe into Menendez during the Obama administration:
Menendez and a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, were indicted in 2015 for an alleged arrangement under which the doctor provided flights on a private jet and lavish vacations in exchange for the senator’s help with government contracts and other public favors. Menendez’s lawyers argued that the two men were simply good friends. The inquiry ended in a mistrial in 2017 after the jury failed to reach a verdict. (Melgen was convicted in 2017 of medicare fraud, and received clemency from President Donald Trump in 2021.)
The two people familiar with the investigation, one who is directly connected to the investigation and the other a New Jersey lawyer who has been told of the case, said that the broad outlines of the new inquiry are similar to the 2017 case. Both said that the new investigation involves an entirely different group of people, however.
Semafor correspondent Kadia Goba offered her insight into the case.
“Federal prosecutors rarely lose at trial, so it’s notable to see the Department of Justice return to Menendez after its humiliating public failure to convict him,” she wrote. “Public corruption cases also present special obstacles since a 2016 decision in which the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and ruled that prosecutors must find explicit evidence that gifts or donations were tied to official actions.
“But there are also internal Justice Department divisions at play,” she added. “In 2015, charges against Menendez were brought by the Public Integrity Section in Washington after a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey handed the case off. The Southern District of New York traditionally operates independently and bears none of the responsibility for the 2018 failure.”
The Daily Caller noted further: “Menendez serves as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after he was first elected in 2006. A separate corruption probe brought by prosecutors in 2015 led to a mistrial, WSJ reported. When asked by WSJ for comment, a spokesman referred them to a previous statement saying, ‘As always, should any official inquiries be made, the senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office.’”