Democrat Senator Menendez Indicted On Bribery, Fraud Charges

Justice Department Indicts Sen. Robert Menendez On Corruption Charges – Wall Street Journal

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The Justice Department indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) on corruption charges Wednesday, bringing the first criminal charges against a sitting U.S. senator since the botched prosecution of Alaska’s Ted Stevens seven years ago.

Mr. Menendez, 61 years old, has said he plans to fight any charges, which are the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the relationship between the senator and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.

A federal grand jury in Newark handed down a five count indictment, charging Mr. Menendez with crimes including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud.

Dr. Melgen is already under investigation for possibly overbilling Medicare. The FBI has also probed whether Mr. Menendez used his position to try to help Dr. Melgen with his legal troubles and whether the senator sought to improperly aid Dr. Melgen’s business interests in a Dominican Republic port security company. Dr. Melgen’s lawyer has previously said the doctor acted appropriately at all times.

The probe began with an anonymous accusation about Mr. Menendez’s personal conduct while traveling with Dr. Melgen in the Dominican Republic in 2013. Investigators could never substantiate those claims, but the probe evolved into a far-reaching examination of the relationship between Dr. Melgen and the senator – a long friendship that included gifts, hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and travel together, according to people familiar with the case.

Shortly after the FBI investigation began, Mr. Menendez repaid Dr. Melgen $58,500 for two private flights to the Dominican Republic that the senator hadn’t listed on financial disclosure forms, Menendez aides have said. Aides called the initial failure to list the flights an oversight.

As news of potentially pending charges spread in recent weeks, Mr. Menendez has acknowledged receiving gifts from the doctor but said they were the result of a close friendship, not corruption, and pledged he wouldn’t back down. Mr. Menendez has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees over the last year, according to public filings.

A prolonged legal battle between the senator and the Justice Department could have broader political and foreign-policy repercussions at a time when Senate Democrats need every vote they can get to confirm Obama administration nominees and muster support for the White House’s foreign-policy moves.

The case is already testing the limits of the Justice Department’s ability to investigate members of Congress. Much lawmaker activity is protected by a constitutional provision that makes them immune from prosecution and civil suits when they are involved in “legislative activity.”

Lawyers in the case have already been sparring on the issue. Prosecutors sought to compel two Menendez staffers who claimed such privilege to testify before a grand jury about actions allegedly taken on behalf of Dr. Melgen, according to a sealed appellate court document that was briefly posted on a public website last month.

Prosecutors’ last attempt to charge a sitting senator – Mr. Stevens – went badly awry, casting a dark cloud over the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, which is also pursuing charges against Mr. Menendez. The Justice Department won a 2008 conviction against Mr. Stevens on charges he made false statements on government paperwork, allowing him to conceal tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts, including free home renovations. Just a week after that verdict, Mr. Stevens narrowly lost his re-election bid.

The next year prosecutors reversed course and asked for a judge to vacate the conviction, based on an internal review which found key information had been withheld from the defense. Mr. Stevens died a year later in a plane crash.

Since then, the Public Integrity Section has been overhauled and brought a number of high-profile cases. It oversaw the successful prosecution of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife on corruption charges. Last year, Rep. Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.), pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion and said he would resign. Still, the constitutional protections for Congress weren’t at play in those cases.

The charges come at the same time as Mr. Menendez, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is playing a key role in some major foreign-policy issues. He has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s overtures to Iran and Cuba and has urged it to get more aggressive in combating Russia’s moves in Ukraine.

Senate Democrats have no hard-and-fast rules requiring a lawmaker to step down from committee assignments or leadership positions when facing legal troubles.

If he declines to step down, Democrats would have to decide whether to force his ouster, Senate aides said. Democratic aides said such a decision would be unlikely to occur until members return to Washington from recess in two weeks, though any public statements from rank-and-file lawmakers could be a harbinger of how the caucus might vote.

Charges against Mr. Menendez would also put Senate Democrats and the White House in an awkward position on the nomination of Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder. Ms. Lynch is facing a tight vote to win confirmation and, should Mr. Menendez choose not to vote to confirm the woman who could oversee his prosecution, the White House would have to find another Republican to back Ms. Lynch or she risks being denied confirmation.

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*VIDEO* Pajamas Media: Trifecta – Scott Ott Leaves PJTV For Job With MSNBC


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*AUDIO* Mark Levin Explains Religious Freedom Laws


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Arkansas Legislature Passes Religious Freedom Bill Similar To Indiana’s, Waits For Leftists’ Heads To Explode

Arkansas Joins Indiana With Religious Freedom Bill – Truth Revolt

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On Tuesday, Arkansas legislators, ignoring the deafening cry from LGBT supporters against Indiana’s religious freedom law, finished approving their own version of a similar bill. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has already indicated that he would sign the bill once it was sent to him, and with the 67-21 vote approving the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the Arkansas House, Hutchinson will get his chance. The Arkansas Senate already has approved the bill.

Hutchinson told KARK that the bill represents an effort to balance religious freedom and equal protection of the law, saying bluntly, “This bill tries to do that, and it’s not that complicated.”

The hue and cry over the religious freedom bill in Indiana prompted the governors of New York, Connecticut and Washington to curtail some government travel to Indiana. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy blustered, “They knew what they were doing. They were going to make it legal to refuse to serve gay men and women. Somebody has to call them on it.” Resorting to typical Democrat name calling, he said of Indiana Governor Mike Pence on MSNBC, “When you see a bigot, you have to call him on it.”

The Arkansas bill states: “The Arkansas Constitution recognizes the free exercise of religion; Laws neutral toward religion have the same potential to burden religious exercise as laws purposely intended to interfere with religious exercise; Governments should not substantially burden the free exercise of religion without compelling justification.”

The bill justified its necessity, asserting:

In City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), the United States Supreme Court held that the protections of religious exercise afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, only applied to religious exercise burdened by federal law or agencies and provided no protection from burdens on religious exercise from state or local law or governments; to provide the same level of protection from burdens on religious exercise from state or local governments, a state must enact an equivalent to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, that was passed by Congress.

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Clinton Crime Update: House Select Committee On Benghazi Summons Hillary To Testify

Benghazi Panel Summons Clinton – Washington Examiner

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A House panel Tuesday formally requested Hillary Clinton to testify about the private server and email account she used while serving as secretary of state.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, sent a request to Clinton’s personal attorney, David E. Kendall, requesting that Clinton appear before the committee no later than May 1 for a transcribed interview about the server and email.

The request comes after Kendall told Gowdy that the server had been wiped clean and that it would be impossible to recover the 30,000 emails Clinton deleted last year.

Gowdy, in his request to Kendall, also asked Clinton to “reconsider” her refusal to turn over the server to a neutral third party, which he called “highly unusual, if not unprecedented.”

Clinton said she only deleted personal emails and turned over every work-related message to the State Department, which is reviewing the data to filter out classified information.

“Because of the Secretary’s unique arrangement with herself as it relates to public records during and after her tenure as Secretary of State.” Gowdy wrote, “this Committee is left with no alternative but to request Secretary Clinton appear before this Committee for a transcribed interview to better understand decisions the Secretary made relevant to the creation, maintenance, retention, and ultimately deletion of public records.”

In Tuesday’s letter, Gowdy warned that Clinton’s decision not to turn over the server, “the House of Representatives as a whole will need to consider its next steps.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, who serves as the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner that Gowdy’s depiction of Clinton is inaccurate because Clinton has always been willing to talk to the panel under oath.

“Secretary Clinton agreed to testify months ago – in public and under oath – so the Select Committee’s claim that it has no choice but to subject her to a private staff interview is inaccurate,” Cummings said. “Rather than drag out this political charade into 2016 and selectively leak portions of a closed-door interview, the Committee should schedule the public hearing, make her records public and re-focus its efforts on the attacks in Benghazi.”

The House has the power to subpoena the server, but neither Gowdy nor House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will say whether it will use that authority. Boehner has demanded Clinton turn over the server.

Gowdy said he wants a neutral party to examine the deleted emails to find out of there is any information related to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The House panel wants to examine the State Department’s role before, during and after the attack.

Gowdy noted in the letter that even though Clinton said she deleted the emails, it is “technically possible,” to retrieve them.

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Harry Reid’s Appalling Defense Of His Attack On Mitt Romney’s Tax Record (Chris Cillizza)

Harry Reid’s Appalling Defense Of His Attack On Mitt Romney’s Tax Record – Chris Cillizza

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One of the more outlandish moments of the 2012 campaign came when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the floor of the world’s greatest deliberative body and accused GOP nominee Mitt Romney of not paying any taxes at all for the past 10 years. Reid’s evidence? Someone had told him. (That “someone” is alleged to be Jon Huntsman, father of the former Utah governor. Huntsman denies involvement.)

Reid’s claim, which seemed outrageous on its face, was widely dismissed by fact-checkers. Wrote WaPo’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler in a piece giving Reid four Pinocchios for the claim:

Without seeing Romney’s taxes, we cannot definitively prove Reid incorrect. But tax experts say his claim is highly improbable. Reid also has made no effort to explain why his unnamed source would be credible. So, in the absence of more information, it appears he has no basis to make his incendiary claim.

Moreover, Reid holds a position of great authority in the U.S. Congress. He should hold himself to a high standard of accuracy when making claims about political opponents.

And yet, the clip above shows Reid, in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, not only refusing to apologize for the claim but defending it – in a very weird way.

“Romney didn’t win, did he?” Reid said in response to Bash’s question of whether he regretted what he had said about Romney.

Think about that logic for a minute. What Reid is saying is that it’s entirely immaterial whether what he said about Romney and his taxes was true. All that mattered was that Romney didn’t win.

Where to begin?

How about with the fact that this all-means-justify-the-ends logic – assuming the end is your desired one – is absolutely toxic for politics and, more importantly, democracy. (Worth noting: Reid is far from the only one who practices this sort of thinking; it’s the rule rather than the exception in political Washington, where winning – no matter the cost – is the only goal that matters.) If you can lie – or, at a minimum, mislead based on scant information or rumor – then anything is justified in pursuit of winning. This sort of “the winners make the rules” approach is part of the broader partisan problem facing Washington and the polarization afflicting the nation more broadly. There is no trust between the two parties because they believe – and have some real justification for believing – that the other side will say and do literally anything to win.

Think about Reid’s statement in another context. I have two little kids. What if I told my son, who has just started playing soccer, that his only aim was to win the game – no matter how he accomplished that goal. After all, it’s not cheating unless someone can prove it, right?

Would anyone think that was either (a) good parenting or (b) broadly beneficial for society? No. That is the same logic Reid is applying here, but because we are all inured to the horribleness that is modern political strategy, people barely bat an eye. No, politics ain’t beanbag. I get that. But allowing elected officials to say anything they want about people running for office – and requiring zero proof in order to report those claims – seems to be a bridge too far. And to defend that behavior by saying, “Well, we won, didn’t we?” feels like the junior high school logic that shouldn’t be employed by the men and women trusted with representing us in Washington – or anywhere else.

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*VIDEO* Rafael Cruz: Speech At Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee


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