Nearly three months after the Justice Department dismissed an indictment against Senator Robert Menendez — whose 11-week criminal trial resulted in a hung jury — the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee issued a stinging public reprimand.
The ethics committee said that Menendez’s actions on behalf of Dr. Salomon Melgen “violated Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct.”
“The Committee has found that over a six-year period (Menendez) knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval, and that (Menendez) failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate rule and federal law…” said the 4-page letter.
Melgen, Menendez’s co-defendant in the corruption trial, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in a separate federal case that was the biggest Medicare fraud in US history.
The allegations in the Melgen case were a major element of the bribery and corruption indictment against Menendez, who prosecutors alleged tried to protect the doctor from government investigators probing a billing dispute.
The Florida-based ophthalmologist participated in a Medicare overbilling scheme to defraud taxpayers out of $109 million.
Menendez met with then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get Melgen a pass on overbilling, plus the lawmaker pressured other officials to allow several of the married doctor’s foreign girlfriends into the USA.
Melgen was convicted on 67 counts of health care fraud; making false, fictitious and fraudulent claims; and making false statements related to health care after a jury trial last year.
The Senate Ethics Committee issued a blistering letter Thursday admonishing Menendez for accepting gifts without proper approval, hiding those payments and providing political favors in exchange for the money, flights on a private jet and luxury vacations.
“You must repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already repaid, and amend your Financial Disclosure reports to include all reportable gifts,” the panel ordered. “Finally, by this letter, you are hereby severely admonished.”
“America’s problems did not start with Donald Trump,” said Lisa McCormick, the only challenger opposing him in the Democratic primary. “Bob Menendez has been in Congress for more than 25 years, getting rich while the quality of life for ordinary American workers has been been in serious decline.”
“Menendez was caught taking bribes but he also voted to deregulate banks, then he voted for TARP bailouts,” said McCormick. “He is a warmongering foreign policy hawk. He refused to co-sponsor Bernie’s $15 wage bill or Medicare for All. There are many reasons to throw him out of office.”
“Both Democrats and Republicans that make up the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee have found that Senator Bob Menendez violated federal law and ethics rules,” said pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin, a wealthy Republican who is planning to spend millions of dollars of his own money on ads saying Menendez broke the law. “He is an embarrassment to our state, and it is time for him to resign.”
Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Josh Gottheimer, Donald Norcross, and Bonnie Watson Coleman acted very uncomfortable when asked about being on the ballot next to Sen. Bob Menendez, during a media event in Washington on April 27, 2018, the day after the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” the New Jersey lawmaker.
McCormick appears to be the target of a media blackout, with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd all but declaring that she does not exist and an editorial in the state’s Gannett newspapers saying, “We would have liked to see a meaningful primary challenger for Menendez, but any chance of that died when Menendez avoided conviction; Lisa McCormick stepped up at the last minute to offer a ballot option, but that’s it.”
McCormick declared her intention of running after the 2016 presidential primary, when she was among the most active Bernie Sanders supporters in New Jersey.
McCormick appeared in Facebook Town Hall with Tanzie Youngblood, running for an open seat in the 2nd District, and Rob Carlson, challenging Donald Norcross in the 1st District, two of the six congressional candidates being supported by progressive groups such as Democrats for Change, Central Jersey Our Revolution Chapter, Occupy Democrats, New Jersey for Barack Obama, Coffee Party New, Jersey, and Positively Democratic New Jersey chapter.
The Ethics panel acted on the same evidence that was the basis for a criminal indictment against Menendez issued during the Obama administration, which was dismissed by the Justice Department, which is now run by officials appointed by President Donald Trump.
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