Report: Menendez wants probe of alleged smear campaign

Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal MORE reportedly has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the Cuban government was responsible for planting allegations that a political donor provided the New Jersey Democrat with free trips to the Dominican Republic to solicit underage prostitutes.

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A lawyer for Menendez wrote the Justice Department earlier this year, claiming the CIA had credible evidence linking Cuban intelligence agents to efforts to plant the story in the media, The Washington Post reported.

According to a former U.S. official quoted by the newspaper, Cuban intelligence operatives appear to have created a fake tipster who claimed Menendez had consorted with underage prostitutes. The story was designed to inflict political damage against the lawmaker ahead of his 2012 reelection campaign.

Menendez’s lawyer has denied those reports.

The Daily Caller reported the allegations in the days before the November election. But three Dominican women quoted by the conservative website saying they had been paid to have sex with Menendez recanted their story, with one admitting in an affidavit she had been paid to make the claim to reporters.

In an interview with CNN last February, the senator blasted the allegations as “totally unsubstantiated” and “absolutely false.”

"The smears that right wing blogs have been pushing since the election, that is totally unsubstantiated — it's amazing to me that anonymous, nameless, faceless individuals on a website can drive that kind of story into the mainstream," Menendez said. "But that's what they've done successfully. Now nobody can find them, nobody ever met them, nobody ever talked to them, but that's where we're at."

"The bottom line is all of those smears are absolutely false," Menendez added.

Menendez, a Cuban American who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal opponent of the Castro regime.

“It is deeply disturbing that a foreign government whose intelligence service is an enemy of the United States might try to influence U.S. foreign policy by discrediting an elected official who is an opponent of the Cuban regime,” Menendez’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, told the Post.

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