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Dershowitz: Menendez Charges Lack 'Quid Pro Quo' Exchange

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 12:03 PM

Convicting Sen. Robert Menendez of corruption will be an uphill battle for the Justice Department, says Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a guest Monday on "America’s Forum" on Newsmax TV.

The New Jersey Democrat, who is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is accused of accepting nearly $1 million and flights on a private jet owned by Menendez’s longtime friend, Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen.

Melgen allegedly bribed Menendez in exchange for political favors, most notably for reportedly trying to intervene in a Medicare billing dispute and a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez has maintained his innocence, and told Fox News that he is confident he will be vindicated.

"The problem with these prosecutions is the federal law requires that there be a quid pro quo. That is, that there be an actual handshake agreement that says 'you give me the money and in exchange I'll get this particular thing done for you,'" Dershowitz said.

"When you have old friends, and these guys have known each other for 20 years, and they exchanged favors, that just doesn't sound like the kind of quid pro quo," he said. "It also opens the door to prosecutors to pick and choose which legislators they will go after. You can get 30 or 40 senators and congressmen based on this theory."

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The current law "gives prosecutors too much discretion,"said Dershowitz, and opens the Justice Department to criticism that it may be targeting Menendez for his vocal opposition to Obama administration policies, particularly on Iran and Cuba.

"We should never have to ask that question," he said, because of the dangers inherent "if the executive were to go after legislators and try to punish them by criminalizing political difference."

The mere threat of investigation could have a chilling effect on legislators worried about crossing the executive branch, Dershowitz said.

"It will constrain legislators and say to themselves 'why take a chance or risk?' My whole life could come crumbling down if the executive decides to go after me.' Better to play ball with the executive than risk the wrath of being prosecuted."

He pointed out that people typically make contributions expecting "favor and access to the senators and congressmen" to whom they give.

"It doesn't have to even need to be a current member," Dershowitz said. "It can be somebody who made contributions in order to get an ambassadorship or in order to get any other kind of political appointment.

"This happened from the time of Washington, Jefferson and Adams — and the idea that we make it a crime without changing the law and giving notice in advance to the legislature is unconstitutional and unfair."

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Convicting Sen. Robert Menendez of corruption will be an uphill battle for the Justice Department, says Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a guest Monday on "America’s Forum" on Newsmax TV.
Robert Menendez, Salomon Melgen, charges, political favors, Justice
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2015-03-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 12:03 PM
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