A prominent Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, has been indicted on corruption charges – again. That the senator is corrupt, allegedly, is not exactly a bombshell revelation. Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, says Menedez’s reputation in Washington, DC, and New Jersey goes back a long time. In the current hyper-polarized climate, people on the political right could be forgiven for smelling an ulterior motive behind the four-term senator’s indictment the week before Republicans begin an impeachment inquiry targeting Joe Biden. Of Menendez, Painter said, on Fox News:
“Everybody in Washington has known that he was crooked for a very, very long time. People in the Democratic Party and elsewhere in New Jersey have known that he never should have been put in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He never should have been run for office again, and he should resign immediately.”
Bob Menendez – History of Alleged Corruption
In 2017, Bob Menendez went on trial for charges related to donations and extravagant gifts from a wealthy Florida eye surgeon. A hung jury delivered him a reprieve back then. Now, the Democrat is facing bribery and other charges. During a search of his home, federal agents found envelopes of cash totaling more than $480,000 “hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe.”
The money allegedly came from three New Jersey businessmen. One of these individual’s fingerprints were found on some of the envelopes of cash.
Of course, Menendez claims he’s the victim of a “smear campaign.” He even managed to play the race card, saying in a statement: “Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a US senator.”
A career politician who is up for re-election in 2024, Menendez is also accused of providing “sensitive US government information” to Egypt in exchange for, among other things, gold bars – which were also recovered from his home. In addition, the lawmaker is facing an allegation of scheming to give a New Jersey company a monopoly on halal certification on US food exports to Egypt.
While everyone deserves the presumption of innocence, it doesn’t look good for Bob Menendez. Even a couple of Democrats are calling on him to resign. Biden 2020 campaign surrogate Kevin Walling told FOX News: “This guy has no business [serving] with these charges.” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) told CNN: “Yes I am a Democrat and so is Senator Menendez, but based on what I have seen I am disappointed…”
All in all, Bob Menendez has been investigated since at least 2006 – off and on – for a laundry list of shady activity. Still, it is interesting that he, a well-known Democrat, gets indicted just days before the Joe Biden impeachment inquiry begins. A transparent attempt by the Department of Justice to prove that it doesn’t only target Republicans? That might be a bit of a cynical take, and it is purely speculative – but how many conservatives will wonder the same thing?
Menendez has displayed an remarkable ability to survive until now. Whether he can do it again is questionable, to put it mildly. Justice should be blind, but a lot of Americans are wondering if it really is. Against the backdrop of former President Donald Trump’s indictments and Biden’s looming impeachment, observers will be keeping tabs on the Menendez case. The outcome will probably be politicized, whichever way it goes. If he is ultimately acquitted or gets away with a slap on the wrist, it will be because he’s a Democrat. At least, that’s what many will say. If he goes to prison for years, some will say he was the lamb sacrificed on the altar of the Justice Department’s integrity. That a case like this cannot unfold free of the stench of political suspicions is a very sad indictment of the state of politics and government in America today.