July 8th, 2014
12:35 AM ET
2 weeks ago

Lawyer: Senator and Dominican prostitutes story cooked up by Cuban intelligence agents

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WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez, dogged by a federal corruption probe, was the target of a Cuban intelligence smear plot that managed to fool the FBI and media into investigating.

That's the allegation from Menendez's lawyer, who has asked the Justice Department to investigate, a person familiar with the request confirmed to CNN.

It's a dramatic twist to an already sensational story that involved allegations that Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, traveled to have sex with underage Dominican prostitutes. Those stories, shopped to journalists around Washington for months, were published on a conservative news website before the purported prostitutes recanted and the FBI found no merit in the matter.

It also may throw a wrench into an already complicated investigation of Menendez by the FBI in New Jersey and overseen by the Justice Department's public integrity unit. Investigators are examining Menendez's relationship with a political donor whose ophthalmology practice in Florida has been scrutinized for its billing practices.

The Washington Post first reported the latest turn in the story Monday night, saying that the Menendez claim of a Cuban smear is based on a Central Intelligence Agency finding that Cuban intelligence agents were behind prostitution claims against the senator.

Menendez, who is of Cuban descent, is a staunch opponent of the Cuban communist government and, from his perch as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has pushed the Obama administration to hold the line on sanctions against the regime of Raul Castro.

Stephen Ryan, Menendez's lawyer, said he would comment Tuesday on the matter. A Menendez spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department declined to comment.

A person familiar with the Menendez legal strategy said the letter was sent to the Justice Department seeking an investigation. If the CIA finding is true, the person said, then the ongoing probe of the senator is tainted by the fact Menendez was a victim of a foreign intelligence smear. ​

The episode began in April 2012 when a tipster calling himself "Peter Williams" alerted the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, that he had evidence Menendez engaged in sex tourism by traveling to meet underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

Over a period of months, the tipster managed to also get the interest of an ABC News producer and the FBI, which began looking into the matter.

Eventually, after months of effort by an FBI agent in Miami, the tipster wouldn't provide additional information or talk to the agent about the Menendez allegations, according to records of the email exchanges that were later forwarded to several other journalists in Washington. The sordid tale did become public in November 2012, when the Daily Caller website published the prostitution allegations.

Still, the FBI's foray into Menendez's personal life dovetailed with an ongoing probe focused on a Menendez donor who for years has fought allegations he overbilled Medicare. People familiar with the investigation say it continues, with the FBI and prosecutors still examining whether Menendez broke any laws in his ties to political donors.


Filed under: Bob Menendez • CIA • Cuba • Democrats • FBI • Justice Department • New Jersey • Senate Democrats
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Why would Cuban intelligence go after a Democrat ?

    Dose the Cuban Government want to stop normalization's between the two countries ?

    Cuban Inelegance not so smart . .

    July 8, 2014 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  2. @RI_Roger

    The FBI and DOJ have become so partisan how can the American people have any faith and confidence their investigations and findings are fair and just? Until Eric Holder is relieved of his post, there is no chance for impartial justice in our legal system.

    July 8, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    -instead of all this garbage, why not talk on INFRASTRUCTURE?

    July 8, 2014 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    That would be doubtful.

    July 8, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. jboh

    Published in the Daily Caller. Enough said. Another story cooked by the right wing media that has no basis in fact. As to Medicare irregularities, the donor would be elected Governor of Fla. if he were a TEA/GOP.

    July 8, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    If these stories were unsubstantiated from the beginning why was the media all over it? Doesn't anyone investigate anything before shooting their mouths off? Just what I've been saying for several years now, there is no accountability in journalism anymore. The news now is nothing more than the Enquirer glorified. The Daily Caller as if they have any credibility.

    July 8, 2014 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  7. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    You mean to tell me that National Enquirer-esque innuendo is all that can be passed for news these days out of DC -- I'm just not buying that CNN. Where's the real news?

    July 8, 2014 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  8. Norma Vessels

    Thomas .. the Cuban "rumor" about Sematpr Robert Menendez happened because Senator Menendez is an opponent of the Raul Castro regime .. so a tipster in the Cuben Intelligence got the story going, to smear Senator Menendez. Senator Menendez is on the foreign relations committee, and he has asked President Obama to keep the sanctions going in Cuba.

    July 8, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Thomas asked:

    Why would Cuban intelligence go after a Democrat ?
    Dose the Cuban Government want to stop normalization's between the two countries ?
    Cuban Inelegance not so smart .
    ------------------------------
    They were not specifically after a Democrat. They seemingly went after a person who was apparently judged to be acting against Cuba's interests. He just happened to be a Democrat.

    July 8, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    If these stories were unsubstantiated from the beginning why was the media all over it? Doesn't anyone investigate anything before shooting their mouths off? Just what I've been saying for several years now, there is no accountability in journalism anymore. The news now is nothing more than the Enquirer glorified. The Daily Caller as if they have any credibility.
    --------------------------------
    The only reason the Daily Caller grabbed onto the story, which had been around for some time, is because Memendez involved in a heated re-election campaign. The Daily Caller released the story just days prior to the election in an apparent effort to smear Menendez at the last moment.

    July 8, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  11. t

    ..............Ask Vitter..............He would know...............

    July 8, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  12. Mary Ladyland

    Kind of sad, really. We can't even go with a domestic, American generated rumor here. We have to import one.

    July 8, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  13. Mani

    I think politicians are despicable people. They're born and raised to be unscrupulous. Seems like journalists were raised under that same roof. Who's actually worse? The race is too close to call. We'll need a recount.

    July 8, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  14. Lizzie

    No one knows the truth, except Sen.Menendez, and he will never tell

    July 8, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  15. Sip That Kool Aid, It's All You're Good For.

    When ever the spotlight shines on their discretions, it's always someone elses fault. Hell, has got to be filled to the brim with politicians.

    July 8, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |