Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is facing charges for using his position to promote the business interests of a friend in exchange for gifts, CNN reports.
The Justice Department's public integrity unit has been investigating Menendez for years, and federal prosecutors brought the charges against him today.
Menendez’s attorneys and federal officials have discussed the possibility of Menendez turning himself in before a court hearing on Thursday, people briefed on the case told CNN. Spokespeople for both the Justice Department and Menendez declined to comment.
Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, is under scrutiny. Melgen and his family donated large sums of money to Menendez, and the pair went to the Dominican Republic together several times in 2010. After an investigation into the trips became public, Menendez paid back Melgen $58,000 and called his failure to disclose the flights they took together an “oversight.”
In 2012, Menendez allegedly promoted Melgen’s company, ICSSI, in a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing, which Menendez chaired, although he did not mention the company by name.
Menendez insists he’s innocent and said he’s been friends with Melgen for more than 20 years.
This case will gauge the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute sitting lawmakers.