- Attorney General Eric Holder has approved a request from his prosecutors to file corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), CNN's Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz reported Friday.
- The planned charges will relate to Menendez's relationship with a major donor, wealthy Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. Menendez frequently traveled with Melgen, raised money from him — and advocated for his business interests to federal officials.
- Among other things, Menendez twice flew on Melgen's private jet to Melgen's Dominican Republic mansion in 2010, on Melgen's dime, and didn't appropriately disclose the trips. He later paid Melgen back $58,500 for the trips in 2013.
- When federal officials found that Melgen's clinic had overcharged the government by $8.9 million, Menendez stepped in in Melgen's defense. On one occasion, he met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the matter. On another, he met with officials from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- Menendez's office has denied that there was any wrongdoing, saying that the senator and Melgen were merely longtime friends, that his discussions with federal officials were about "policy issues," and that his initial failure to reimburse Melgen for the flights was just "an oversight."
- The charges will likely be filed within weeks, Perez reports.
A key Senate Democrat
Menendez, first appointed to the Senate in January 2006, is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a former chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has recently been pressuring the Obama administration to toughen Iran sanctions, and has harshly criticized Obama's recent deal with Cuba. He was also part of the bipartisan Gang of 8 that put together the Senate's immigration reform bill in 2013.
It's been clear that the FBI was looking into Melgen for some time. The New York Times ran a series of articles about the relationship between Menendez and Melgen in early 2013.
However, there's been a dispute about whether two of Menendez's aides could be compelled to testify in court. Now, Perez reports, prosecutors are "under pressure" to bring charges "in part because of the statute of limitation on some of the allegations."