Menendez trial: An Obama failure to punish an enemy
Bad as the 18 corruption charges against New Jersey's Sen. Bob Menendez were, the original motive behind the Justice Department's prosecution against him was worse. That's worth remembering as the news of his hung-jury trial probably amounts to an acquittal, given that most jurors (8-2) thought the charges of funds for favors were unproven, and prosecutors may be reluctant to retry against those odds.
According to the New York Daily News:
Prosecutors assembled a mountain of evidence that Menendez traded hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and campaign contributions from a scam-artist Florida ophthalmologist for official favors. No conviction.
The Washington Post summed up the charges thus:
Prosecutors said Menendez took gifts from Melgen, including a luxury hotel stay, private jet flights and campaign donations, in exchange for which he tried to help Melgen get U.S. visas for his girlfriends, intervened in the doctor's $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare, and assisted with a port security contract of the doctor's in the Dominican Republic.
It sure sounds as if he was steeped well in a pay-for-play Washington swamp culture, for what it's worth. Like so many others.
But as Andrew McCarthy, in an exceptionally astute analysis, points out, the telling point here is in the original reason for the charges at all: Menendez angered President Obama, and Obama, banana-republic style, went after him through the Justice Department as payback.
Policy-wise, Menendez wasn't that bad as Democrats go. He was against Obama's Iran deal, something cooked up by Ben Rhodes and shoved down our throats with admitted lies to ensure that Obama left with some sort of legacy, even as the whole thing meant selling America down the river. The deal's secret flights loaded with billions in cash, drug-dealer-style, for the mullahs' benefit, have only served to embolden the Iranians as the cash has since made its way to arms and mayhem.
Menendez also opposed Obama's sellout to Cuba, forking over good relations with the Castro brothers in late 2014 in exchange for nothing. Since then, horrible repressive measures have been taken against dissidents, something Obama and the ever garrulous Rhodes have been silent about.
McCarthy, on PJ Media in 2015, wrote:
Obama's Justice Department, which features the first attorney general in American history to be held in contempt of Congress (for obstructing the House's investigation of the outrageous Fast & Furious scandal), is the most politicized in American history – practicing discriminatory law-enforcement that stays its hand against friends (see, e.g., its treatment of New Black Panther Party voter intimidation, Solyndra fraud, and the Obama 2008 campaign's large-scale campaign finance violations) while punishing critics, scapegoats, and others who dare to cross the president (see, e.g., treatment of Dinesh D'Souza's de minimis campaign finance violation; of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, producer of the anti-Muslim video the administration fraudulently blamed for the Benghazi massacre; and of Standard & Poor's, squeezed for a $1.37 billion settlement in a retaliatory suit Justice filed after S&P downgraded the U.S. credit-rating).
The telling point, he adds, is that Menendez's collaborator in his misdeeds, one former Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, never got charged despite his involvement in intervening on behalf of Menendez in his pay-for-play activity.
The fact that most of the jury believed Menendez when he said it was based on friendship, not payoffs, is understandable, even if concerning, given that practically any politician who ever did what Menendez did would be off the hook. But the same argument could not be made for the unindicted Reid, who was nothing more than a political coeval of Menendez's, doing Menendez's dirty work for him in exchange for influence. Yet Reid was never indicted – because he never crossed Obama.
The bigger problem here is that the Obama administration engaged in raw political payback, comparable to a Chicago ward pol, and that is something that merits judicial action much more than Menendez.