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Menendez Corruption Trial May Harm Senate Dems in Sept.

by Countable | 8.31.17

What’s the story?

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is going to be on trial for corruption this fall, despite his best efforts to delay the proceeding. A politician on trial for corruption is always news, as it should be, but Menendez’s timing is particularly bad for the Democrats, and may imperil their efforts to halt key pieces of Republican legislation

Why does it matter?

Menendez is accused of using his influence to benefit a friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for lavish vacations, private jet flights and campaign cash. Through his lawyers he attempted to get the judge to delay the trial, now scheduled to begin September 6 in Newark, or to cancel proceedings on days that Menendez needed to be in Washington for key legislative votes.

His lawyers argued that it was unfair to ask the senator to choose between defending himself in front of a jury of his peers and exercising his Constitutional obligations to his constituents. The Department of Justice lawyers were unimpressed by the argument, reports Politico:

"A bedrock principle of our criminal justice system is that the law does not recognize wealth or title. Many defendants try to evade their criminal trials—but only a United States Senator can try to hide behind the very office he corrupted to avoid accountability to the public for his actions."

As we saw in the Senate vote on health care, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast the crucial vote that killed the legislation with a simple downturned thumb, contentious legislation survives these days on a razor’s edge. Twice already, with Democrats all standing together, Vice President Pence has had to come into cast tie-breaking votes — once to confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and again to pass legislation limiting federal funds to abortion providers.

In addition to the annual budget process, the Senate will be voting this fall on raising the debt ceiling. They may also see more votes on health care, a tax reform package, and other polarizing issues. Unless Sen. McCain, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, also absents himself from the proceedings, Democrats will be a single, crucial vote down in terms of blocking Republican measures without intervention by the Vice President.

Even if Menendez is convicted, he’s likely to be around for months. Ultimately, he has to resign or be voted out by 2/3rds of the Senate. And if he can stick it out until NJ Governor Chris Christie leaves office in January of 2016, he may be able to preserve his seat for the Democrats. Christie is expected to be succeeded by a Democrat, who will control the appointment of a replacement for Menendez, if or when he resigns.

For now the only question is how fast the trains are between Newark and D.C. By the end of the fall session Sen. Menendez should be able to tell us.

What can you do?

Should Menendez resign now if he can’t prioritize his duty to represent his constituents? Should he hold out until he’s exonerated or can resign under a Democratic governor? Is convicting a politician for influence peddling like convicting water for being wet? Are you from New Jersey? What do you think Menendez should do?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Related Reading:

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Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(41)
  • rsolonhamer
    08/31/2017
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    Senator Schumer should tell Bob Menendez that he better play ball, show up for every single crucial vote no matter what's going on at his trial, and resign as soon as Phil Murphy is sworn in as Governor like a good boy, or Senate Democrats will make the last few months of his political career miserable. I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat -- ALL Americans should be cheering at this corrupt scumbag finally getting his just desserts. All Democrats have to do is tolerate his rotten existence for another five months. Just five more months.

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  • Leon
    08/31/2017
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    If convicted he should face the maximum penalties under the law. Everyone deserves their day in court but if found guilty it should be extreme regardless of party.

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  • Azrael
    08/31/2017
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    Play ball Move on If guilty resign

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  • James
    08/31/2017
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    The man broke the law and is under indictment for being a crook! He should not be allowed to vote until cleared by a jury! How can any of you people support a criminal!

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  • Truly
    08/31/2017
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    So a Democrat being accused of a crime is a problem, a Republican doing it is a cabinet appointment. If he is guilty, let the chips fall where they may. Until then, he needs to do his job.

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  • JoshieVersace
    09/01/2017
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    Doesn't matter if you are a democrat, republican, libertarian, independent, green, etc....corruption kills everything and should be eliminated by any means

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  • Ticktock
    09/01/2017
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    This guy is an elected official! Party doesn't matter. He should not serve anytime at a vacation resort. He betrayed the people's trust.

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  • Ochoninja
    08/31/2017
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    He should resign now and go through whatever legal judgments he must go through. If not guilty he can proceed from there for his political future

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  • Norm
    09/01/2017
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    Democrats or republicans or whatever, if you used the office criminally you go to jail. And by the way, white collar crime is just as serious as other crimes because its used with a gun of trust and truth, and really makes me angry.

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  • Terri
    09/01/2017
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    This is wrong, period. I am over excuses from both parties. I would love to see Dems. Stand up and say "this behavior damages our democracy and any politician who acts in this manner should be punished". What I expect is silence or the "other guy is doing it too" defense. What I would love to see from the Republicans is something along the lines of, "We need to clean up all levels of our government when it comes to influence peddling and using your political position for gain, I don't care if you are a dog catcher or the President". What I expect to hear is astonishment that someone would do this, how sad, he must be punished, without a whisper or whimper about anyone in the Republican administration. Ultimately what it will show is that absolutely no one on either side of the aisle has the moral high ground and that hypocrisy is the only thing guaranteed from both Parties. I really hope I'm wrong.

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  • Bruce
    09/01/2017
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    What !!! A corrupt Democrat......there is no such thing. As always Democrats are silent and he will probably use the Hillary Law and get off. Just wondering how much more the American people can take of all the Lawless Democrats corruption before they wake up and vote them all out ? Hillary, Obama, DNC, Awan brothers, Antifa and the List goes on !!!

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  • Quiara
    09/01/2017
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    As a dem- i say throw the book at him. We should hold our politicians to the law fully as they do the citizens. They should be held to a higher level of moral expectations & when they breech the law face the max punishments as an example. For too long politicians from all sides have used our tax paying money as piggy banks for lavish lifestyles while we cant even get decent schools & healthcare. No more. If they are in office to serve themselves & not the people then they should go to jail.

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  • Dara
    09/01/2017
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    Shame on all politicians, democrat or republican, that don't follow the laws. People should exhibit moral terpitude. If not, don't run for office. You are role midels and leaders of the nation.

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  • Christopher
    08/31/2017
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    This is an example of how to deal with corruption; investigation and prosecution. I don't make any excuses for corruption, it has no place in our Government and should send a message to both sides of the aisle.

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  • Stuart
    09/01/2017
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    Interesting and about time the law applies to the Dem's. Amazed the story is making the news. Always thought the law is, was and will always be color & party blind, there is a right and wrong, regardless of party.

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  • SouthernGal
    09/01/2017
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    Resign now. Fill his spot with a temp & if he is found innocent, he can be reinstated. Corruption should never be tolerated. BTW, this also applies to the GOP and possible Russian donations that they may have accepted.

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  • Blackhawk.U.S.Army.Vet
    09/02/2017
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    Crooked ass politicians. Nothing new, he just got caught.

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  • Bfowler7
    09/01/2017
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    He should not be allowed to vote on any agenda as long as he is on trial!

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  • Jeffrey
    09/01/2017
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    He should submit his resignation immediately. Unlike the theoretical Russian connection to Trump, there is actual proof of a crime, and evidence implicating him. It is an absolute joke for him to wait for a Democrat Governor to resign.

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  • Sheryl
    09/01/2017
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    There are LONE WOLFS in our country who have reached the end of their rope with the rampant corruption on BOTH sides of the aisle. Apathy didn't work. Sending DJT to the WH didn't work. I think we're going to see much more violence against the system in the next few years unless politicians start working for the people again.

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