Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey is under investigation by a federal grand jury in Miami over the Democrat’s role in advocating for the business interests of a wealthy donor and friend, according to news reports.
Menendez has intervened in matters affecting the financial interests of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, three people aware of the investigation told The Washington Post on Thursday.
He sought to apply pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to honor a contract with Melgen’s port security company, documents and interviews conducted by The Post show.
Menendez’s office also has acknowledged that he interceded with federal health-care officials after they said that Melgen had overbilled the U.S. government for care at his clinic, The Post reports.
Melgen has provided Menendez with plane flights and hospitality at his Dominican vacation home, according to people who are acquainted with their relationship.
Last year, Melgen contributed $700,000 to Menendez — chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — and other Senate Democrats, The Post reports.
Menendez acknowledged in January that he had failed to disclose two free trips he took on Melgen’s private plane to vacation with him in the Dominican Republic in 2010.
He said he wrote Melgen a personal check this winter for $58,500 to reimburse him for the plane rides, The Post reports.
The Senate Ethics Committee also is investigating why Menendez did not disclose the flights sooner, according to The Post.
But on Thursday, Menendez declined to say whether he knew about the investigation, but told The Post that any probe would find no wrongdoing.
“I welcome any review, because I believe, at the end of the day, that my actions have been appropriate,” Menendez told The Post. “And just as everything that gave rise to this was a smear campaign based on slanders that drove the original story, I believe that when anyone reviews the facts, they will determine that I have acted appropriately at all times.”
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