In a major blow to Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), former senior policy adviser, Mark Lopes, testified that the lawmaker helped with visa applications for friends of a wealthy donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
ABC News reports:
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Under direct questioning from the government, former senior policy adviser Mark Lopes testified that Menendez emailed him in 2008 authorizing a letter of support from Menendez to be sent to consular officials regarding the visa applications of two sisters from the Dominican Republic.One of the emails sent around the time had a subject line that read: “Dr. Melgen’s request.” When the applications were denied despite Menendez’s signed letter, Lopes testified, Menendez instructed him to reach out to the U.S. ambassador. The sisters were friends of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend of Menendez’s. The two men were indicted in 2015 and face multiple fraud and bribery charges. Prosecutors said they orchestrated a scheme in which Melgen gave Menendez gifts and campaign donations in exchange for Menendez’s political influence.
The New Jersey Democrat’s corruption trial kicked off to a rocky start.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Walls told a lawyer for Sen. Robert Menendez to “shut up for a moment” as the two engaged in a heated argument during the first moments of the New Jersey Democrat’s corruption trial.
Shortly after court proceedings began, defense attorney Raymond Brown criticized Judge William H. Walls for a line in his opinion on Friday that rejected Menendez’s request that the trial be recessed on days where the Senate is taking “critical” votes, so that the senator can be in Washington.
“Quite frankly, your honor, that language is extremely prejudicial to the defense and it comes form the court. I think the court has disparaged the defense,” Menendez attorney Raymond Brown said.
Brown was not completely clear on which passage he was referring to, but it appears to be this part of Walls’ opinion: “The Court suspects that the trial strategy behind this motion, if granted, would be to impress the jurors with the public importance of the defendant Senator and his duties. No other plausible reason comes to mind.”
In a surprising segment by CNN’s standards, the network’s Jake Tapper recently highlighted the Senator’s corruption trial.
In 2015, Obama’s Department of Justice charged Senator Robert Menendez with corruption.
Federal prosecutors indicted Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez on corruption charges on Wednesday for allegedly using his Senate office to push the business interests of a friend and donor in exchange for gifts, according to the Justice Department.
The case, brought by the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, sets up a high-stakes battle between a New Jersey senator who has fought off investigations for years, and federal prosecutors and the FBI who have spent years pursuing him.
“Robert Menendez, a U.S. senator, and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, were indicted today in connection with a bribery scheme in which Menendez allegedly accepted gifts from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit Melgen’s financial and personal interests,” said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, in a statement.