The Justice Department is preparing to indict Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey on political corruption charges, CNN reports:
The Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, alleging he used his Senate office to push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.
People briefed on the case say Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on prosecutors' request to proceed with charges, CNN has learned exclusively. An announcement could come within weeks. Prosecutors are under pressure in part because of the statute of limitation on some of the allegations.
The government's case centers on Menendez's relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who the senator has called a friend and political supporter. Melgen and his family have been generous donors to the senator and various committees the senator is associated with.
Investigators have focused in part on plane trips Menendez took in 2010 to the Dominican Republic as a guest of Melgen. In 2013, after word of the federal investigation became public, Menendez paid back Melgen $58,000 for the 2010 plane trips calling his failure to properly disclose the flights an "oversight."
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing in his ties to Melgen. His spokeswoman did not immediately comment on CNN's report that the Department of Justice is preparing charges against him.
Menendez went to bat for Melgen's ICSSI company after Medicare officials accused it of overbilling the agency, and the senator is also under scrutiny for pushing for a Melgen business concern to secure a Dominican Republic port-screening contract.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 1992, Menendez has served in the Senate since 2006. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2013 until the Republican takeover of the Senate in January, and remains the top Democrat on that panel. A vocal foreign policy hawk, Menendez has been a leading critic of the Obama administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran and the diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba, which is providing fodder for conservatives in the wake of CNN's report, even though Menendez has faced probes for years: