The New York Times’ editorial board is calling on New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez to resign following his indictment on conspiracy and bribery charges stemming from his relationship with a friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.
“Outrage is fitting in this case — for anyone who reads the indictment,” the editorial board writes.
“It meticulously documents a brazen pattern of gifts and favors exchanged by Mr. Menendez, one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Dominican-born eye surgeon who invested heavily in Mr. Menendez’s political career and was never shy about calling in favors.”
The 68-page indictment lays out scintillating details on the quid-pro-quo relationship between Menendez and Melgen, both 61 years old. (RELATED: Here Are The Salacious Details Of Robert Menendez’s Indictment)
It details how Menendez helped three of Melgen’s foreign-born model girlfriends secure visas. He also intervened on behalf of Melgen’s medical practice, which was the focus of an investigation for overbilling Medicare. On top of that, Menendez lobbied the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help a Melgen-owned company profit off of a port security deal in the Dominican Republic.
In exchange, Melgen showered $1 million in political donations, Dominican vacations, private plane rides and other amenities on the New Jersey Democrat. Melgen also helped set up a three-day Paris getaway for Menendez, whose girlfriend at the time was there for a visit.
“Mr. Menendez argues that all the back-scratching was not criminal, but rather what good friends are supposed to do for each other,” The Times’ editors write.
“He’s certainly entitled to make that case to a jury. Considering the breadth and nature of the allegations, though, it’s hard to imagine that he will have enough time to adequately represent his constituents while he braces for a legal fight that could drag on for years.”
Menendez was defiant when rumors first began floating around in 2013 that he was the subject of a grand jury investigation. That did not change after the 14-count indictment was handed down Wednesday. He vowed to fight the charges and entered a not guilty plea on Thursday.
“Senate staff members routinely work on behalf of constituents, but there appears to be no reasonable explanation for the hours of work they put into a billing dispute on behalf of a doctor from another state,” The Times continues, noting the peculiar manner in which Menendez took Melgen’s issues up with former Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius. Their Aug. 2012 meeting was brokered by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Shortly after that meeting, Melgen donated $300,000 to Majority PAC, a political action fund operated by Reid associates. Most of Melgen’s donations to the PAC — which total $700,000 in all — were earmarked for Menendez’s campaign.
Reid is not accused of wrongdoing in the indictment.
“He would be doing a disservice to New Jersey by clinging to power as a disgraced politician,” The Times continues. “His colleagues in the Senate should demand that he step aside.”
“Gov. Chris Christie would have a range of options to fill the seat temporarily until a new election could be held for the seat. If that happens, Mr. Christie should find the speediest way possible to let voters choose a successor who, ideally, would come into office without questionable friends.”