Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J. faces a new federal investigation, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have contacted people connected to Menendez in recent weeks, the sources said. They have sent at least one subpoena in the case, according to a person connected to the inquiry.
An advisor to Menendez responded to a request for comment hours after Semafor published the original story. “Senator Menendez is aware of an investigation that was reported on today, however he does not know the scope of the investigation,” Michael Soliman texted Semafor. “As always, should any official inquiries be made, the Senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office.”
Menendez and a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, were indicted in 2015 for an alleged arrangement under which the doctor provided flights on a private jet and lavish vacations in exchange for the senator’s help with government contracts and other public favors. Menendez’s lawyers argued that the two men were simply good friends. The inquiry ended in a mistrial in 2017 after the jury failed to reach a verdict. (Melgen was convicted in 2017 of medicare fraud, and received clemency from President Donald Trump in 2021.)
The two people familiar with the investigation, one who is directly connected to the investigation and the other a New Jersey lawyer who has been told of the case, said that the broad outlines of the new inquiry are similar to the 2017 case. Both said that the new investigation involves an entirely different group of people, however.
A spokesman for Menendez, Francisco Pelayo, declined to comment on the inquiry. Menendez did not respond to messages left on his personal cell phone. A spokesman for the Southern District of New York, Nicholas Biase, declined to comment on the inquiry.
Federal prosecutors rarely lose at trial, so it’s notable to see the Department of Justice return to Menendez after its humiliating public failure to convict him.
Public corruption cases also present special obstacles since a 2016 decision in which the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and ruled that prosecutors must find explicit evidence that gifts or donations were tied to official actions.
But there are also internal Justice Department divisions at play. In 2015, charges against Menendez were brought by the Public Integrity Section in Washington after a U.S Attorney in New Jersey handed the case off. The Southern District of New York traditionally operates independently, and bears none of the responsibility for the 2018 failure.