Menendez speaks out strongly against claims
February 9th, 2013
07:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Menendez speaks out strongly against claims

(CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez has labeled as false a number of claims by unidentified accusers who, he says, are “trying to defame” him with accusations that he improperly used his office by accepting unreported plane flights, advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of a business and intervening in a Medicare billing inquiry.

“It’s the last time I am going to say this - the last time. Anonymous people without faces, without names can make accusations and the press can ask these questions,” the New Jersey Democrat told the television network Univision.

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“Those are false accusations, and they are trying to defame me, and are completely, not only absurd, but completely false.”

The claims first appeared shortly before the November 2012 election on a conservative website, and resurfaced this year after he paid nearly $58,500 for two plane flights in 2010 which he had not previously paid for or reported as gifts, as is required of senators. The flights went unpaid for, he said, because of his busy schedule.

He has denied wrongdoing relating to a number of the claims, including in an exclusive television interview on Monday with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. "The bottom line is all those smears are absolutely false," he said, describing claims that he had partied with prostitutes "unsubstantiated."

And a memo from his communications director to supporters obtained by CNN on Friday questioned both the source - "the right wing blogosphere" - and the timing - "the first attacks were unleashed just days before the November elections" - of the claims.

Inquiry from a number of news outlets, including The Washington Post, have recently turned up other developments, including claims Menendez spoke to Medicare officials about a billing issue involving a friend, campaign donor and ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

“We asked questions,” he said in the Univision interview. “There is a great difference between asking questions regarding the policies of Medicare and the confusing situation regarding the regulations and positions that Medicare has adopted, and actually interfering in a case. Whoever thinks I could interfere with a case to change the outcome of a case, it’s absurd.”

When pressed, he said he had thought the government was conducting an “administrative process” rather than an investigation.

Investigators recently removed boxes from Melgen’s South Florida office but it was not clear what the purpose of that investigation was nor if Menendez was included in the scope of the investigation.

Menendez also denied wrongdoing relating to his advocacy for ICSSI, a company that had a port security deal with the Dominican Republican. He owned stock in the company.

“Nobody has bought me,” he said. “No one. Ever. In the 20 years I've been in Congress, never has it been suggested that that could even be possible. Never in 40 years of public life. So I'm not going to reach this moment in my life to make that a possibility.”

At a congressional hearing last summer Menendez questioned U.S. officials about the contract said the Dominican Republic was not interested in following it. That reference, he told Univision, was “only a mention inside a large hearing with a lot more time and lot of other mentions,” not an attempt to advocate for the port company.

An editorial published Saturday in The New York Times urged Menendez step down from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while an inquiry is conducted into “the swirling accusations of misconduct.”

He ascended to that spot this year upon the resignation of John Kerry, who now serves as secretary of state. The Times wrote he “was never a distinguished choice for chairman” and should not serve until the questions are resolved.

“It is unclear whether the Senate Ethics Committee has initiated a formal inquiry into Mr. Menendez's conduct, but a prompt and thorough review is surely called for. In the meantime, Mr. Menendez needs to relinquish his leadership role, at least temporarily,” the editorial read.

- CNN’s Steve Brusk, Elwyn Lopez, Isabel Carro, Ashley Killough and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

Filed under: Robert Menendez
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Former Republican, now an Independent

    With the hundreds of republican attack dog groups out there publishing thousands of false e-mail messages each month, who can believe anything negative said about a democrat these days. The republican party has a severe credibility issue.

    February 9, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Tullymd

    The appearance of corruption is without doubt a fact. I predict within 6 months he'll resign. I was the one, yes me, who predicted the Anthony Weiner resignation.

    February 9, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. HJA

    Democrat, doesn't matter how you spell it. It's still pronounced "crook".

    February 9, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  4. mcwreiole

    This particular senator is the height of arrogance. For a hefty donation to his campaign you get preferential treatment and favors. If you are a mere constituent here in New Jersey, you get a robo-answer to your questions. Same with Lautenberg, who is so elderly, I doubt that he can even walk down the hall of Congress without aid. They both have been there waaaaaay too long. These union-funded unbreakable terms of office add nothing to the solution of problems facing this nation...these men spend the largest bulk of their time perpetrating their job security through their endless quest for more campaign dollars.

    February 9, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  5. Larry L

    Can Congress investigate any issue w/o making it a political issue? The things he's charged with should be relatively easy to prove or disprove. If he's guilty we should hammer him hard for violating the public trust. If the charges are false the people making the claims should be charged with slander and held accountable. We need to stop operating Congress like reality television.

    February 9, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    Again more guilty until proved innocent charges so must step down NYtimes
    Trial by innuendo in the media has to stop... either find real facts thru investigation with supportable and or incontrovertible ( preferably) evidence or shut up until you have it.

    February 10, 2013 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  7. ronjayaz

    Oh, c'mon, Senator, let's hear it one more time. And then resign.

    February 10, 2013 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  8. Dan

    That $58,500???

    February 10, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  9. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    This guy is dirty plain and simple. Unfortunately the Politicians we have today are mostly worthless and are out for financial and Political gain and could care less about this Country!

    February 10, 2013 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  10. Bob Ramos

    “It’s the last time I am going to say this – the last time. Anonymous people without faces, without names can make accusations and the press can ask these questions,” the New Jersey Democrat told the television network Univision.
    The Senator is 100% right. Until these anonymous jerks step up and identify themselves, they should be totally ignored. The NYT is wrong.

    February 10, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  11. Roger_RI

    The John Edwards strategy.... Let's see how this works for the Senator; It didn't work for Representives Jesse Jackson Jr. or Anthony Wiener.

    February 10, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  12. Donkey Party

    Just another GOP smear campaign against a good man. I didn't think it was possible, but the GOP finds ways to reach new lows every passing day.

    February 10, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |