NEWARK – On the day a report emerged that the Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal charges against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), alleging that New Jersey’s senior Senator used his office to boost the business interests of a wealthy Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts, Menendez issued a brief statement that was characterized by a willingness to fight any potential corruption charges.
“Let me be very clear: I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” said Menendez, a U.S. Senator since 2006 and a fixture of Hudson County politics for decades, in front of a crowd of reporters at the Newark Hilton on Friday. “Every action that I and my office have taken for the 23 years that I have been privileged to serve in the U.S. Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and of this entire country.
“Now anyone who knows me, knows that I fight for the things that I believe are important – like making sure victims of Superstorm Sandy have the tools they need to rebuild their lives or making certain Iran never, ever achieves the ability to produce nuclear weapons.
“I’ve always worked to keep New Jersey families safe, keep our ports secure, and keep the promise we made after 9-11 to keep our first responders fully equipped and staffed. There may be no member of Congress who fought harder than I did to get the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations into public law.
“So I fight for these issues and for the people of our country every single day. That’s who I am. And I am not going anywhere.”
Menendez then turned his attention to focus on the federal government’s case against him: the senator’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who Menendez has called a friend and political supporter, support that has included donations to the senator’s campaigns.
“As to Dr. Melgen, anyone who knows us knows that he and his family, and me and my family, have been real friends for more than two decades,” Menendez said. “We celebrated the holidays together, we have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals, and have given each other birthday, holiday, and wedding presents – just as friends do.
“Lastly, because there is an ongoing inquiry, as much as I would like to, I cannot make any additional comments or answer any questions. The time may come to do that, and I hope you’ll understand.”