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Menendez ‘not going anywhere’ despite reports of charges

Greg Nash

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Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Friday night he was not “going anywhere” despite reports that the Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against him.

“I fight for these issues and the people of our country every single day,” he told reporters, “That’s who I am, and I am not going anywhere.”

{mosads}”I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” he said.

He did not take questions from the media “because there is an ongoing inquiry.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has reportedly signed off on the charges, though he declined to comment about the matter on Friday afternoon.

The likely charges concern Menendez allegedly using his office to advocate for the interests of donor and friend Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

 CNN reported that prosecutors are looking at plane trips that Menendez took as a guest of Melgen’s at a villa in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez later paid back $58,000 for the 2010 trips when it became known that he was under investigation. At the time, his office said it was an “oversight” that he had not paid Melgen back for the travel costs.

Investigators are also reportedly interested in whether Menendez was using his position to protect Melgen’s business interests when he got involved in a debate over whether the United States should donate port screening equipment to the Dominican Republic.

Melgen’s company had a contract at the time to provide port screening services in the Dominican Republic that the local government was not honoring. The donated equipment could have impacted his business and made it more difficult for him to pursue the enforcement of the contract, which was worth $500 million over 20 years.

There are also questions about whether the senator intervened in a billing dispute between Melgen and Medicare officials.

A spokeswoman for Menendez on Friday expressed confidence that he will ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“As we have said before, we believe all of the senator’s actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that,” the Menendez spokeswoman said in a statement. “Any actions taken by Sen. Menendez or his office have been to appropriately address public policy issues and not for any other reason.”

“We know many false allegations have been made about this matter, allegations that were ultimately publicly discredited. We also know that the official investigation of this matter is ongoing, and therefore cannot address allegations being made anonymously.”

While neither the Justice Department nor the Senate Ethics Committee publicly acknowledge investigations, Menendez said in a document setting up a legal fund in 2014 that he had been under investigation by both bodies.

Menendez is a prominent member of the Senate and former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He also led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2009 until 2011.

The New Jersey Democrat has been clashing with the Obama administration in recent months over foreign policy. He is fiercely opposed to the White House’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, arguing the move vindicates Fidel Castro’s “brutal behavior,” and has argued for stronger sanctions on Iran.

The senator reportedly faced off with Obama over Iran during a meeting at a Democratic retreat earlier this year.

CNN was the first to report the news of the charges against Menendez.

Ben Kamisar and Mark Hensch contributed.

This story was last updated at 7:50 p.m.

Tags New Jersey Robert Menendez

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