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Senator Robert Menendez indicted by the feds

Resigns as chairman of powerful political committee

Glenn Townes | 4/6/2015, 11:15 a.m.
Last week in a Newark court room, New Jersey senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to a list of federal ...
Robert Menendez

Last week in a Newark court room, New Jersey senator Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty to a list of federal charges that among other things contend he accepted about $1 million dollar in gifts and campaign contributions from a friend—a prominent Florida eye doctor--in exchange for political influence and special favors.

In the wake of a scandal that had been brewing for months, Menendez resigned on Thursday as a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee (FRC) in order to focus on his defense of the 14 count indictment by the feds. Salomon Melgen, a South Florida ophthalmologist and longtime friend and business associate of Menendez is also named in the 68 page indictment. As a ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez and others have been at odds in a congressional dispute with President Barack Obama regarding efforts to establish an agreement with Iran and its nuclear weapons program. In one of many statements to the press in recent days, Menendez said he has done nothing wrong and will fight the charges.

In stepping down from the (FRC) he said, “While there is no caucus rule that dictates that I do so, I believe it is in the best interest of the committee, my colleagues, and the Senate which is why I have chosen to {step down}.”

Supporters of the embattled 61-year-old son of Cuban immigrants who were once political prisoners of dictator Fidel Castro, have been soliciting contributions via several web sites to help fight what is expected to be a long and costly legal battle to clear and dismiss the charges. One web site, www.istandwithbob.com includes news footage of Menendez adamantly disputing the charges against him and comments from his supporters. One supporter posted, “I'm here to support Sen. Menendez because every time I need a favor to do something for the Spanish community {throughout New Jersey} he's always there.” The trial is expected to last for several months.