Political Insider: No indictment of Sen. Menendez this week

NJ.com – by Agustin C. Torres

OK, it’s past 5 p.m. on Friday, as I write, and that means all federal employees, as well as most taxpayer-paid employees — except uniformed services — have been on their way home hours ago. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez isn’t getting indicted this week.

Since published reports, sourced from leaks, indicated it was only a matter of when Menendez would be federally indicted on corruption charges, and most were predicting this (past) week. It appears we’ll have to wait a little longer. I can’t imagine that it is a result of second thoughts in the Justice Department but rather because of meetings between los federales and Menendez’s legal team. More time may also be needed to convince Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen that it is in his best interest to testify against his friend the New Jersey senator.  

This is the background paragraph so if you know all this, skip to the next one: Menendez considers Melgen a very close friend and he took several rides on the good doctor’s private jet to the Dominican Republic. Problem is that the senator did not mention the “road” trips in disclosure forms, only paying the $58,500 cost of the flights after they became public. The doctor donated about $700,000 to a super-PAC which donated about $500,000 to Menendez’s re-election campaign. The senator and Obama foreign policy critic said he didn’t do anything wrong — or in this opinion, anything unusual for a member of Congress. And to think, all this may have started with Fidel’s Cuban spies planting stories about Menendez and Dominican Republic hookers.

Those meetings with prosecutors has led to speculation about Menendez trying to come up with a deal, but why hire a big shark for a defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, who had twice been legal counsel to the House of Representatives, if you’re not going to use him. It doesn’t match the makeup of Menendez’s reputation as a cold-blooded politician. Meanwhile, there are reports that the feds are trying to make the Dominican native, Melgen, rollover and testify for the prosecution.

Also, I said this is one of the most unique cases because Menendez is not formally indicted but he is making statements as if he was, sending messages to the Justice Department about what they could face in court. He hasn’t stopped chirping. His focus lately has been on the source of leaks to the media which he calls illegal. I had a flashback of the old Dr. X case, involving a West New York physician, but which would not apply here. Still, everyone blames the media.

Melgen has a habit of catering to celebrities and politicians. It has been reported that he has ferried the likes of Sen. Harry Reid, who immediately reimbursed the doctor, and rapper Pitbull on his jet to fundraisers. Like the local pizzeria, he collects pictures of these personalities for his walls. According to Menendez’s comments, Melgen and his wife have visited the senator in New Jersey, not exactly the vacation Mecca of a Florida or the Caribbean, so there’s probably evidence of a relationship. When it comes to giving close to a million in donations to the senator and Menendez-associated committees, it is more difficult for prosecutors to claim it was all quid pro quo since the two have been acting like blood-brothers.

Then there is the mused question of whether this case is holding up Attorney General Eric Holder’s exit from the Justice Department. Having resigned, Holder said he’d wait around for a replacement and now President Obama wants Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman for the post.

Ironically, the Democrats will need Menendez’s vote to make certain they can confirm the new leader of the outfit that wants to jail the senator. I previously wrote that Menendez would probably recuse himself but in a close vote margin, it would doom Lynch just as if he voted no. In an added twist, Menendez urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, to bring the confirmation to the floor for a vote. The senator has not indicated how he would vote – I guess because he likes a good Shakespearean drama where it doesn’t end well for anyone.

If it goes much longer, Holder could always appoint a deputy.

Well, there’s always Holy Week, a good time to hand up an indictment.


— With Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop’s choice of Angela McKnight as the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s choice for the 31st District assembly candidate for the primary, all that is needed is filing nominating petitions.

Just to make things bumpy, opposition on the Bayonne side of the district are circulating – I presume for cultural reasons — a video from Hudson County View of McKnight passionately addressing a crowd at an anti-violence rally in front of City Hall that was organized by the Newark-based Morticians Who Care. The video is an edited four minutes long. Will the full video turn up one day? Will it make a difference?

I’m hearing there are people who may yet team up with Jersey City’ Bruce Alston in a Democratic/independent partnership for an off-the-line bid for the 31st Assembly. Sources said they include former Peninsula City Councilwoman and now school board member Mary Jane Desmond. Another is a Jersey City’s Country Village resident but I’ll hold back her name for the time being.

The thinking is that if Alston can get more than 2,000 votes out of Bayonne, the off-the-line candidate has a shot at an upset victory.

— Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis is on vacation and is not expected back until after Easter. Department of Public Works Director Gary S. Chmielewski is the acting mayor. Why is the DPW guy in charge? It could be because he may be the only director living in the city, although I can’t be certain about Public Safety Director Robert Kubert whose house was unfortunately damaged by a fire on his Avenue E block last summer.

— Former Hudson County Freeholder Tom Liggio of North Bergen is now, what else, an aide to the new North Bergen Freeholder Anthony Vainieri. Life is a circle.

— The North Hudson municipal races should be heating up beyond name calling.

In North Bergen, Larry Wainstein, who is trying to unseat Mayor Nick Sacco in the May election filed a complaint, through attorney Mario Blanch, to the state Board of Education against Sacco. Wainstein said Sacco used his political muscle to get member of his family and a girlfriend’s kin jobs through the local school board. Of course, there were observations that Sacco is making a ton of money with several public jobs, etc.

In response, township spokespeople say Wainstein is grandstanding for political reasons, is lower than a mollusk, and probably suggested that the mayor is a frugal person who took the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Over in West New York, things are fairly quiet between opponents Mayor Dr. Felix Roque and Commissioner Count Wiley. There’s been the usual complaint by Wiley that Roque is strong arming teachers (always the teachers?) to support his campaign. Roque has been somewhat quiet about his opponent of late, but activist Frank Ferreiro launched a torpedo charging that Wiley’s wife is a North Bergen committeewoman putting into question where the Wiley’s call home. The commissioner says Ferreiro is a Roque operative. Ferreiro says he’s not – making accusations is probably just a hobby

With the warm weather, you have to ask what comes up first this spring in West New York, blood or crocus.

— Forgot for a moment to mention that I don’t think 33rd District Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, booted off the HCDeadO’s primary ticket, has thrown in the towel. Like Mainor in the 31st, I’m hearing he may still make a re-election bid – and become Union City Mayor and 33rd District Sen. Brian Stack’s eternal punching bag.

— Since Sacco and Stack declared détente and are now pals, I haven’t seen a letter from former Union City police superior Joe Blaettler criticizing Stack. Just wondering? Email address: atorres@jjournal.com.

— In case you missed it a week ago, Hudson County favorite Solomon Dwek wasreleased from federal prison. Dwek, the FBI informant who collected evidence against a number of Hudson County political figures in Operation Bid Rig III,   served less than 30 months of a six-year sentence. Dwek was caught running  real estate scam. As part of the sentence he was expected to make $22.8 million in restitution. I sure there a few people in Jersey City who would throw him a party.

— I had to check to see if I mentioned Steve Fulop’s name but I did, right after the Insider Notes subhead.



3 thoughts on “Political Insider: No indictment of Sen. Menendez this week

  1. “Also, I said this is one of the most unique cases because Menendez is not formally indicted but he is making statements as if he was, sending messages to the Justice Department about what they could face in court.”

    The show must go on…

  2. Real news from political outsider: There’s not going to be an indictment of any politicians, ever, regardless of what they do.

    They’ve recently thrown a few killer cops into the “justice” system to appease an angry population, but you’re not going to see a politician pay for their crimes unless an angry mob gets their hands on them.

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