An attorney for embattled Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the Cuban government attempted to smear his client with claims that he had visited underage prostitutes, the Washington Post is reporting.
Menendez is the subject of multiple investigations over his relationship with Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, whose family has donated $175,000 to the New Jersey senator since 2006.
Inquiries into Menendez’s behavior reportedly include investigations by the FBI, a federal grand jury and the Senate Ethics Committee.
At issue in those investigations is whether Menendez used his political office to advance Melgen’s business interests. Melgen stands accused of dramatically over billing the federal government for eye surgeries for his patients. In 2012, Melgen received more money from Medicare reimbursements than any other biller nationwide — coming in at $21 million.
But besides their business dealings, Menendez and Melgen have been tied together in another story, this one involving allegations that the eye doctor hooked the Democratic senator up with young prostitutes during visits to the Dominican Republic.
In 2012, the Daily Caller reported claims made by two Dominican women who said that Menendez was one of their clients during his stay there.
But in its report, the Washington Post cites sources who claim that the federal government has evidence that Cuban agents worked behind the scenes to plant the salacious tale.
The Post reported that a former U.S. official with knowledge of government intelligence said that the CIA had credible evidence, including internet protocol addresses, showing the Cuban agents’ involvement.
Evidence of the connections has been circulated among U.S. government officials, according to the former official and another source close to Menendez.
The Post did report that “there was no indication that the information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials alleging Cuba’s role in the Menendez case had been fully investigated or proved.”
Citing agency policy, a CIA spokesman told TheDC that the agency could not comment on whether it had any information on the matter.
Likewise, the Justice Department could not comment on the letter sent by Menendez’s attorney, Stephen Ryan.
Neither Ryan nor Menendez’s senate staff responded to TheDC’s inquiries on the letter or the investigation.
But in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Menendez was asked whether he or his office were at all involved in planting the story alleging Cuban involvement in order to distract from the investigations.
“Let me play the devil’s advocate here,” asked CNN’s Dana Bash. “That is, that perhaps your legal team made this information public as a diversion, as a way to sort of muck up the federal investigation of you.”
“Well, first of all, I think that you have to have – I think a credible entity like The Washington Post would have to have their own sources,” said Menendez. “And they would have to verify their sources. So I think that’s [a] pretty far-fetched idea.”
Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested that his opposition to the communist Cuban regime could be behind any plot to smear him. Menendez, who is of Cuban heritage, has staunchly opposed normalizing relations between the U.S. and the communist nation.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the regime would do anything it can to stop me from being in a position that ultimately would impede their hopes of being able to get a different relationship with the United States based upon their interests but not the interests of the Cuban people,” Menendez told CNN.
And although Menendez’s attorney reportedly conveyed confidence that the Cuban government was plotting against his client, the New Jersey senator insisted that it was instead The Washington Post that provided credibility for the claim.
“Look, you know, it seems to me that based upon what the Post sources are, that it’s the government that has the proof,” he continued. “And it seems to me that the government should ultimately, internally, review what its sources are, from whence it got this information, and what have they done about it.”
Before accusing the Cuban government of plotting against him, Menendez earlier alleged that racial discrimination was behind stories about his relationship with Melgen. The senator’s spokeswoman did not reply to a question about whether he stands by those remarks.