Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is under federal investigation, his advisor confirmed Wednesday, seven years after the senator was previously indicted for alleged bribery and corruption—which prosecutors are reportedly now investigating him for again.
Menendez is “aware of an investigation” into him but “does not know the scope of” it, advisor Michael Soliman said in a statement to multiple outlets, after Semafor reported early Wednesday the senator was the subject of a federal probe.
ABC News reported Menendez is facing a criminal probe by New York prosecutors.
Semafor, citing anonymous sources, reports the “broad outlines” of the investigation are “similar” to the previous charges against Menendez, who was indicted in 2015 for conspiracy, bribery, violating the travel act, making false statements and honest services fraud.
Those charges—which were ultimately dropped after his trial ended in a hung jury in 2017—alleged Menendez accepted approximately $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, in exchange for using his office for Melgan’s personal gain.
The government’s current investigation into Menendez centers on different people from the last probe, Semafor reports, and federal investigators have reportedly already sent at least one subpoena and have started contacting witnesses.
Menendez pleaded not guilty to the previous charges against him, alleging that any payments and gifts he received from Melgen were because they were friends and not a quid pro quo.
The Justice Department and Menendez’s office have not yet responded to requests for comment.
What To Watch For
Menendez is slated to run for reelection in 2024, so if the investigation finds reason to indict Menendez, any charges against him—or just him being under investigation—could hinder his campaign. The senator previously ran for reelection in 2018, after the trial in the last case against him, winning 54% of the vote in the Democratic-leaning state despite his legal issues. Politico also notes that should this investigation damage Menendez politically and force him to resign, it would be less consequential for Democrats than it would have been the last time around. If he had left office after being indicted in 2015, New Jersey’s governor at the time, Republican Chris Christie, would have appointed his interim replacement, while this time it would be Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, whose term lasts until 2026.
Menendez’s previous corruption charges didn’t hurt him with his colleagues in the Senate, with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both testifying on his behalf at trial. “What is honorable about [Menendez] to me is that when I go home, and I am reminded of who I’m fighting for, I know Bob Menendez doesn’t just have my back but has their backs,” Booker testified.
In addition to facing allegations involving Menendez—which he was cleared of alongside the senator at trial—Melgen was also convicted on charges of healthcare fraud in 2018 for falsely diagnosing patients with macular degeneration and defrauding Medicare by charging for their treatment. Former President Donald Trump commuted his 17-year prison sentence before leaving office in January 2021.
Menendez has been in the Senate since 2006 and serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Justice Department indicted him in April 2015 for his alleged scheme with Melgen, alleging the senator received flights, vacations at Melgen’s Caribbean villa and in Paris, over $750,000 in campaign contributions and a $40,000 contribution to his legal defense fund, none of which were reported on financial disclosure forms. In exchange, prosecutors alleged Menendez lobbied executive agencies to help Melgen’s business contracts, advocated on his behalf in a $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and helped Melgen’s girlfriends secure visas. The jury at his trial ultimately deadlocked 10-2—with most believing him to be not guilty—resulting in a mistrial, and federal prosecutors ultimately declined to retry the case.
Senator Robert Menendez is under investigation again (Semafor)
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez under federal investigation: Sources (ABC News)
New Jersey senator’s bribery trial ends in a hung jury (Associated Press)
Menendez juror: Prosecution’s ‘weak’ case had ‘no smoking gun’ (Politico)