Federal investigators in the corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez are trying to convince his friend at the center of the allegations to cooperate and provide information, The New York Times
Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon, has been offered a deal to be the star witness in the case that accuses Menendez of offering political influence in exchange for gifts, lavish vacations, and $58,000 worth of private flights.
Menendez is making his own appeal to the Justice Department to drop the case, according to law enforcement officials, prompting prosecutors to hold off on issuing charges this week.
The FBI began investigating the case in 2013 after being alerted to the gifts Menendez accepted. He is accused of taking actions that stood to benefit Melgen, encouraging the Obama administration to change Medicare's reimbursement policies which would have made millions for Melgen, one of the country's biggest recipients of Medicare funds, according to the Times.
He also urged the Obama administration to push the Dominican Republican to honor a contract with a port-security company that Melgen had invested in.
Investigators believe that a pattern has emerged between the exchange of gifts and the political favors, but Menendez says actions were legitimate policy discussions and the gifts were a result of a friendship over the course of almost 30 years.
"Let me be very, very clear," Menendez said this month, according to the Times. "I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law."
But the FBI has issued a renewed push to get Melgen, who has denied wrongdoing, to cooperate with the investigation. His lawyer has denied he was working with investigators.
"I don't know why people keep saying that to us, but no, he's not," Anne Lyons told Politico.
Menendez's political career is hanging in the balance but there are potentially broader political consequences if he is charged. The confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch could be defeated if he decided to abstain from the vote unless the Obama administration can convince one additional Republican to support her.
A spokeswoman said Menendez said he is waiting to see the status of the charges against him before he decides whether or not to cast a vote on Lynch when it comes up in the Senate.
Menendez is the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Banking and Finance Committees.
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