Sen. Bob Menendez’s bid to get out of his bribery and corruption charges via an appeal to the Supreme Court has been knocked down as they declined to hear the case. Menendez will now face a trial on the charges this fall.
This announcement on Monday reportedly represented the last option available to the New Jersey Democrat in his attempt to avoid a criminal trial.
Menendez’s defense team had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in December, seeking a hearing on its argument that the Justice Department violated the senator’s constitutional privilege under the Speech or Debate Clause, which shields lawmakers and aides from legal action for legitimate legislative activities. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled against Menendez.
After a long-running criminal probe, Menendez was indicted by the Justice Department in April 2015 on 14 felony counts related to favors allegedly done in exchange for gifts and political contributions made by Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend and campaign donor.
Federal prosecutors claim Menendez or his staff intervened with federal agencies on Melgen’s behalf to resolve a multi-million dollar billing dispute over Medicare charges, to maintain a $500 million port security contract with the Dominican Republic and to obtain U.S. visas for Melgen’s girlfriends. Melgen has also been indicted in this matter.
Menendez pled not guilty in the case and has argued that the interventions were routine constituent services.
Abbe Lowell, Menendez’s lead defense attorney, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the senator’s appeal “disappointing” but claimed that her client will be “vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial.”
“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court did not take this opportunity to set a clear, bright line of the separation of powers to ensure that Congress remains an independent and co-equal branch of government, free of interference and retribution from the executive as the Framers intended,” Lowell noted via a statement.
“While the senator always understood it is rare that the Supreme Court hears any case before trial, given the gravity of the Constitutional issues raised, he believed it was important to try.”
Lowell continued: “As the senator has been saying for more than four years since the government began chasing these wild allegations, he has always acted in accordance with the law. Sen. Menendez remains confident that he will be vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial.”
We shall see.