Supreme Court refuses to dismiss Menendez corruption charges

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/bob-menendez-supreme-court-corruption-charges-236252

The Supreme Court has rejected Sen. Bob Menendez’s attempt to throw out the bribery and corruption charges against him, setting the stage for a trial for the New Jersey Democrat this fall. With Monday’s announcement, Menendez can no longer block the proceedings against him from moving forward, a major setback for his efforts to avoid criminal trial. Menendez’s office did not have an immediate comment on the announcement. 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.Menendez’s attorneys have also argued that the New Jersey Democrat never mentioned Melgen’s name during an August 2012 meeting with then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Marilyn Tavenner, then the acting head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.Sebelius and Tavenner were summoned to Capitol Hill for a private meeting with Menendez in the office of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who at that time was the Senate majority leader. According to Sebelius, the topic of the meeting was a dispute between CMS and Melgen. CMS claimed Melgen had overbilled the government for millions of dollars, which Melgen fought.

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