By Julian Pecquet - 02/19/13 10:39 PM EST
A fact-finding trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan is causing new headaches for Sen. Robert MenendezRobert MenendezConfirm Julien Neals for the district of New Jersey Puerto Rico task force asks for help in charting island's economic course Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (D-N.J.).
Under investigation for alleged ethics lapses, Menendez traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan over the weekend for his first foreign trip since taking over as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following John KerryJohn KerryKerry: More 'work to do' in avoiding civilian casualties in Yemen Chaffetz presses Kerry on Clinton Foundation Trump poised to betray primary supporters on immigration MORE's confirmation as secretary of State.
The trip brought renewed unwelcome attention to his troubles at home after the official website of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday published photos that purport to show Menendez and Karzai discussing the “fight against corruption.”
"President Karzai said that Afghanistan needs earnest and sincere cooperation of the international community, particularly of the United States in its fight against corruption,” the web site says. “The President called awarding of contracts to relatives and affiliates of Afghan senior officials, a major source of corruption, underscoring that the United States should avoid it.”
Conservative media immediately pounced.
“NO JOKE: Menendez Meets with Karzai About Corruption,” titled Fox News.
“Menendez Meets with Karzai to Talk ... Corruption,” wrote Breitbart.com.
“Sen. Menendez meeting with Karzai to talk about corruption,” he tweeted. “When you want to flee a scandal, head to Kabul.”
The FBI is investigating allegations that Menendez traded favors for campaign contributions from a Florida doctor and solicited underage Dominican prostitutes. As for Karzai, U.S. officials have long accused him of turning a blind eye to massive corruption in his country.
Menendez says the charges are false and that they would not detract him from his work as chairman, which includes oversight of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Menendez's office had no comment regarding the attacks.