Report: Sen. Menendez, NJ Democrat, faces new federal probe

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who avoided conviction on corruption charges five years ago, is reportedly the subject of a new federal investigation.

An adviser for the senator, Michael Soliman, acknowledged the probe in a statement Wednesday.

“Senator Menendez is aware of an investigation that was reported on today, however he does not know the scope of the investigation,” he said. “As always, should any official inquiries be made, the Senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office.”

The startup news organization Semafor reported Wednesday that federal prosecutors based in Manhattan had contacted people connected to Menendez in recent weeks, citing two people familiar with the inquiry.

Those people didn’t provide detail on what the investigation was about or what sort of alleged wrongdoing was involved.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment. Menendez’s Senate office referred to Soliman’s statement.

Menendez was indicted in 2015, accused of abusing his office to help a Florida eye doctor who had given him lavish gifts — including trips on a private plane to a Dominican resort and a Paris vacation.

Prosecutors said the senator had pressured government officials to resolve a Medicare billing dispute in a way favorable to the doctor, Salomon Melgen. They said Menendez also helped get U.S. visas for the doctor’s girlfriends and worked to protect a contract Melgen had to provide port screening equipment.

Menendez’s attorneys argued that Melgen’s gifts were tokens of their longtime friendship, not bribes. Menendez paid for some of the trips he took to Melgen’s resort in the Dominican Republic.

A jury deadlocked on the charges in 2017. Prosecutors declined to retry Menendez. The senator maintained his innocence and was reelected in 2018.

Melgen was convicted on health care fraud charges in Florida, but former President Donald Trump commuted his sentence during his final days in office. A White House statement at the time credited Menendez with backing clemency.

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