You might not know it from the lack of mainstream media coverage, but longtime Democratic Congressman Bob Menendez is still on trial in New Jersey on charges that he engaged in a pay-to-play scheme with one of his top donors.
Last week, federal prosecutors rested their case against Meneendez, after presenting weeks of evidence connecting the Democratic lawmaker to a Fort Lauderdale doctor named Salomon Melgen. According to the government's attorneys, Menendez communicated frequently with Melgen, using his influence with the State Department and Medicare fraud investigators, to do a variety of favors for Melgen.
Menendez is alleged to have used his office to pressure state officials into issuing visas for Melgen's many foreign girlfriends, and to distract federal investigators who were looking into Melgen's business practices, concerned that the doctor was responsible for millions in Medicare fraud. In return, Menedez reportedly received free flights on Melgen's private plane and lavish gifts.
After the prosecution concluded their case Friday, Menendez's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that prosecutors couldn't tie Menendez's friendship with Melgen to any of Menendez's specific actions, and that any meetings Melgen had with Menendez were simply friendly chats that just happened to lead into offers of help.
Judge Walls didn't see it their way. “This court concludes that a rational jury could deduce that the defendants entered into a quid pro quo agreement,” Walls said in his decision Monday morning. “The jury is at liberty to accept or reject."
That means Menendez must now launch a defense. A quick rundown of court filings will tell you that won't be an easy task.
Democratic legislators and their allies in the mainstream media have been oddly quiet about Menendez's case, no doubt hoping Americans will be distracted by "sexier" issues like the NFL boycott, the back-and-forth with North Korea, and the premiere of the hit show This Is Us. Many Democratic legislators have even said they will "withhold judgment" on whether Menendez should resign his seat in Congress until after Menendez is officially convicted.
As for news coverage, well, that remains to be seen, but so far, if you scan any of the major news networks, it's almost as if Menendez is merely a figment of our imagination.