Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) received an early Christmas present when a judge declared a mistrial in his corruption case Thursday. Right after thanking God, the senator thanked his fellow New Jersey senator, Cory Booker, for standing by him in the corruption case. Menendez even suggested Booker would make a great president.
“I want to thank my colleague Senator Cory Booker, who has been supportive of me from day one, traveled the state and spread the good word, was here on the first day of the trial and came and testified, and was, in my mind, a profile in courage,” Menendez declared.
“I know that many who were close to him urged him not to testify, but it’s the measure of an incredible man who is willing to use not only his personal reputation, but take a risk in order to see justice done,” the senator added. Then came the interesting part.
Menendez said Booker “is a public servant of unlimited potential who could just easily serve our country in the highest office of the land.”
Did you catch that? Menendez just endorsed Booker for president.
Booker may not appreciate this endorsement, however. Menendez has been steadily losing support in New Jersey as his trial for corruption dragged on. In September, 50 percent of his state’s voters said he will not deserve to be re-elected in 2018. Only 20 percent said he should be re-elected.
The numbers got even worse in late October. According to the most recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 59 percent of Garden State voters said Menendez does not deserve re-election. Nearly half of voters (49 percent) said they disapprove of Menendez’s job in the Senate, while only 31 percent said they approve.
This is rather blue New Jersey, where Democrat Phil Murphy walloped Republican Kim Guadagno in the governor’s race, 56 percent to 42 percent. If Menendez is unpopular even in his home state, his endorsement may only drag down any support Booker might enjoy.
While Menendez was not found guilty in the trial, the facts are bad enough. Dr. Salomon Welgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, bestowed upon Menendez lavish gifts over a long period of time. Melgen gave him private flights, luxury accommodations, free vacations — all of which Menendez initially failed to disclose — and more than $700,000 in direct and indirect political contributions.
The trial hinged not on concrete evidence, but on subjective questions about intent, friendship, and official acts. The case revolved around whether these gifts were permissible as between friends, or whether they were part of a longstanding bribery arrangement.
While the jury was undecided on whether or not to convict Menendez, there is substantial evidence Melgen may have been bribing him.
When Melgen needed help to resolve a contract dispute for an X-ray operating company he owned in the Dominican Republic, he donated $60,000 to various political groups and super PACs backing Menendez. On the very same day, the senator met with an assistant secretary to press that exact issue.
When Melgen needed quick changes to a Medicare reimbursement program, he donated $300,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate. That same day, Menendez met with officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a month later he met with then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
In September, the media attempted to hide the fact that Menendez was a Democrat. The New York Times did not mention his party affiliation, and NBC News even labeled the senator a “Republican.”
Last Friday, Newsbusters’ Mike Ciandella reported that the three big cable networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — gave Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore nearly 12 times as much overage for his sexual abuse scandal than they gave the Menendez trial.
Even so, the word is getting out, at least in New Jersey, that Menendez is likely very dirty, despite the jury’s inability to reach a decision. If Cory Booker really is planning a 2020 run — and his position on universal health care suggests he might be — this “endorsement” might hurt him more than it helps.
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