Checks & Balances

Meaning of ‘constituent’ argued in Menendez case


Sen. Bob Menendez, center, arrives with his children, Alicia Menendez and Robert Menendez Jr., to court for his federal corruption trial in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The trial will examine whether he lobbied for Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen's business interests in exchange for political donations and gifts. Both have pleaded not guilty. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Sen. Bob Menendez, center, arrives with his children, Alicia Menendez and Robert Menendez Jr., to court for his federal corruption trial in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The trial will examine whether he lobbied for Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen’s business interests in exchange for political donations and gifts. Both have pleaded not guilty. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Latest on the corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy campaign donor (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

The definition of “constituent” is the next issue to be taken up at the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

The Democrat’s co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, lives in Florida. Menendez represents New Jersey.

Melgen’s lawyer told jurors in his opening statement Thursday that the actions of a senator affect people all over the country and that his constituents can be anywhere.

The government alleges that Melgen wasn’t a constituent and that he offered trips and campaign donations in exchange for Menendez’s political influence.

The judge asked both sides to submit written arguments on the matter.

The trial is recessed Friday and will resume with testimony Monday.

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1 p.m.

The judge in the bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy donor has chided prosecutors over questions to a witness he called “irrelevant.”

The exchange occurred Thursday as a prosecutor questioned an FBI agent about emails between Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen about Menendez’s 2010 stay in a Paris hotel.

The government appeared to be attempting to show that the New Jersey Democrat chose a more expensive room and had his friend Melgen pay for it with American Express points as part of a bribery scheme.

U.S. District Judge William Walls cut short the questioning and sent the jury out. He then told the attorney to take a different line of questioning.

Walls said whether Menendez and Melgen engaged in bribery “doesn’t depend on whether Sen. Menendez chose a more expensive room.”

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11:25 a.m.

An attorney for a wealthy doctor on trial with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has told jurors the government’s corruption case is built on assumptions.

Kirk Ogrosky made his opening statement Thursday morning. He says Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen and Menendez are longtime friends who spent time frequently at Melgen’s homes in Florida and the Dominican Republic.

The government alleges trips paid for by Melgen, and campaign contributions he made to Menendez, were to get the New Jersey Democrat to use his influence to help Melgen’s business interests.

Ogrosky told jurors Menendez often paid for his own flights to visit Melgen with family members.

Ogrosky also said Melgen didn’t get any benefit from Menendez’s alleged attempts to pressure government officials on his behalf.

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10 a.m.

The corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy donor has resumed with an opening statement from the donor’s attorney.

Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen face bribery and fraud charges for what prosecutors say was a scheme in which Melgen lavished the New Jersey Democrat with gifts and donations in exchange for political influence.

Both men deny the charges and say there was no bribery agreement, but instead a long-lasting friendship that included gift-giving on both sides.

The first witness was expected to take the stand Thursday morning.

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12:10 a.m.

The question of “why?” and not “what?” could hold the key to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial.

An attorney for the New Jersey Democrat told jurors during opening statements Wednesday in Newark that he would concede that Menendez did all of the things prosecutors say he did.

Those included taking luxury vacations courtesy of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen and meeting and corresponding with government officials on issues that could affect Melgen’s business interests.

But attorney Abbe Lowell says jurors can’t find Menendez guilty unless they conclude he and Melgen had a bribery arrangement, something Lowell says there’s no evidence to prove.

Justice Department attorney Peter Koski says Melgen’s campaign contributions and other inducements corresponded to times when Menendez met with government officials to pressure them on behalf of Melgen.

Source: AP

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