An outspoken critic of President Obama from within his own party is facing allegations of corruption after Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on pressing charges against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.
Menendez is accused of using his Senate office to advance the business interests of a friend and donor in exchange for gifts. CNN reports that the case revolves around Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
Investigators have focused in part on plane trips Menendez took in 2010 to the Dominican Republic as a guest of Melgen. In 2013, after word of the federal investigation became public, Menendez paid back Melgen $58,000 for the 2010 plane trips calling his failure to properly disclose the flights an “oversight.”
Menendez said he has been friends with Melgen for more than 20 years and the two families have spent holidays and other special occasions together.
Menendez calls the allegations part of a smear campaign against him.
There is no question Menendez has been an outspoken critic of Obama. Last December he blasted the spy swap and easing of sanctions against Cuba. “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” Menendez said in a statement at the time.
In January it was the talks with Iran that had Menendez at odds with the president.
“I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” Menendez. “And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization when they are the ones with original sin–an illicit nuclear weapons program, going back over the course of 20 years, that they are unwilling to come clean on.”
Menendez is one of the highest ranking Hispanic members of Congress and currently the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.