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Obama’s Justice Department Charges Menendez … But Not Reid

reid_menendez_4-3-15-1 Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, right and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., left, in happier times, November of 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Obama Justice Department has filed its much anticipated corruption indictment against Senator Robert Menendez. He is the New Jersey Democrat who, from his powerful senior seat on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, has vehemently opposed President Obama’s negotiations with the jihadist regime in Iran, as well as his outreach to Castro’s Cuba.

Two things about the Obama administration cannot be denied. First, the president is desperate to cut a deal with the mullahs on their nuclear program, so much so that he has erased virtually every red line he ever purported to draw and has not been shy about strong-arming naysayers, including our allies in Israel and France.

Second, the Obama’s Justice Department, which features the first attorney general in American history to be held in contempt of Congress (for obstructing the House’s investigation of the outrageous Fast & Furious scandal), is the most politicized in American history – practicing discriminatory law-enforcement that stays its hand against friends (see, e.g., its treatment of New Black Panther Party voter intimidation, Solyndra fraud, and the Obama 2008 campaign’s large-scale campaign finance violations) while punishing critics, scapegoats, and others who dare to cross the president (see, e.g., treatment of Dinesh D’Souza’s de minimis campaign finance violation; of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of the anti-Muslim video the administration fraudulently blamed for the Benghazi massacre; and of Standard & Poor's, squeezed for a $1.37 billion settlement in a retaliatory suit Justice filed after S&P downgraded the U.S. credit-rating).

Consequently, as discussed here at Ordered Liberty last month when Menendez called an extraordinary press conference to defend himself, it was reasonable to suspect that the impending indictment might be payback for defying the president on Iran – indeed, mocking the White House over talking points that, the senator said, read as if they’d been written in Tehran.

As I hastened to point out in that post, this was not an “either-or” scenario. That is, it is entirely possible both (a) that the administration is harassing Menendez and making an example of the wages of defiance, and (b) that Menendez is in fact guilty of crimes. Discriminatory law enforcement is rarely a matter of trumping up cases. It is more a matter of exploiting the gray areas of prosecutorial discretion. Dinesh D’Souza, for example, was undeniably guilty of campaign finance violations. Nevertheless, the Justice Department typically allows these to be settled by administrative fine … as it did in the case of the Obama 2008 campaign’s offenses. D’Souza, to the contrary, was singled out for a multiple felony prosecution, with the Justice Department aggressively pushing for a significant prison sentence (denied by the judge), even though D’Souza’s $15,000 violation was a pittance compared to the Obama campaign’s concealment of nearly $2 million in donations.

So now that Menendez and his heavyweight donor, Florida opthalmologist Salomon Melgen, have been indicted on 22 corruption counts (comprised of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and false statements charges), it is worth asking: Is Menendez being unfairly singled out for prosecution on conduct in the nature of “everybody does it”? In considering this question, it is worth focusing on that paragon of Beltway rectitude, Harry Reid, who makes an intriguing cameo appearance in the Menendez indictment.

Boiled down to its essence, the 68-page indictment charges Menendez with agreeing to accept “things of value” (expensive gifts, vacations, private plane trips, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions) from Dr. Melgen in return for being influenced to use his powerful office for Melgen’s benefit. The charging instrument describes an unusually lavish donor-pol arrangement. Still, the choreography of pay-to-play contributor and pampered elected official – with the chorus line of connected lobbyists and eager-to-please staffers in between – is hardly atypical of Washington … which is why so many Americans hold their government in such contempt.