Will Senator Menendez Actually Be Held Accountable?

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

When news broke Friday that Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) had been indicted, my first thought was, “Again?” For real. I can’t think of a single U.S. senator who has been indicted and tried as much as he has. His legal issues have the potential to be problematic for the Democrats in the upcoming 2024 elections.

For starters, having a sitting U.S. senator face trial during an election year isn’t a good look for the Democrats. The 2024 Senate map is extremely advantageous for the Republican Party. NRSC Chairman Steve Daines is reportedly eying New Jersey as a potential pickup opportunity. Yes, New Jersey is a blue state, but Chris Christie defeated incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine, who was notoriously corrupt, back in 2009. Can a Republican win a statewide election in New Jersey? Sure, under the right circumstances.

Does that mean it will happen in 2024? I’m doubtful. Menendez has yet to declare his candidacy for reelection, and it’s hard to say whether the indictment will influence him one way or another. If he does run, he faces the possibility of conviction before the election, putting Democrats in a huge bind. If he doesn’t run, his trial could cast a dark shadow over the election regardless.

But will it matter? His notorious corruption has been a matter of public record for years. Is it big news that he’s been indicted? For sure. But it’s because of his lengthy record of getting away with corruption that I’m urging caution and reminding you not to get your hopes up that a ripe pickup opportunity has indeed presented itself.

And Menendez has been accused of some serious crimes.

In 2012, he and businessman Salomon Melgen were accused of traveling to the Dominican Republic to have sex with underage prostitutes. The media was, of course, on his side and attempted to discredit the allegations, but federal prosecutors believed Menendez was guilty. For whatever reason, however, the Obama Justice Department never charged Menendez. He won reelection that year.

A few years later, Menendez was  indicted on corruption charges, and the allegations of having sex with underage prostitutes came up again. According to court filings, the federal government had “corroborating evidence” supporting allegations of Menendez soliciting underage prostitutes.

“Presented with specific, corroborated allegations that defendants Menendez and Melgen had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, the Government responsibly and dutifully investigated those serious allegations,” the court filing explained. However, despite the corroborating evidence, the Obama Justice Department chose not to charge him with soliciting underage prostitution—just the federal corruption charges.

Menendez ultimately went to trial, and Jack Smith, the man who is currently prosecuting Donald Trump, failed to achieve a conviction as the trial ended in a mistrial.

So, I hate to break it to you, but Menendez has succeeded in avoiding accountability for his corruption for years. Therefore, I can’t confidently say that even in the face of these new federal bribery charges that he won’t ultimately be found not guilty or get reelected by the Democrat voters of New Jersey again.


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