Menendez admonished by Ethics panel, which says he broke the law

Menendez admonished by Ethics panel, which says he broke the law
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The Senate Ethics Committee is "severely" admonishing Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer says Senate will vote on repealing 2002 war authorization The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Sanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale MORE (D-N.J.), saying his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen broke Senate rules, federal law and "applicable standards of conduct." 

"The Committee has found that over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval, and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law," the six members of the panel wrote.

They added that, in addition to accepting the gifts improperly, Menendez used his position "as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen's personal and business interests."


On top of the public letter, the Senate Ethics Committee is requiring Menendez to "repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already paid." 

Menendez is up for reelection this year. 

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Marc Elias, a counsel to Menendez, said on Thursday evening that the Ethics Committee's letter contradicts both the outcome of Menendez's trial and the decision by the Justice Department to dismiss the charges against the Democratic senator. 

"Many of the findings in the letter were not only contradicted by the presiding judge and rejected by the jury, but the proceedings clearly demonstrated that there was no violation of any law," he said in a statement

Elias added that Menendez stopped submitting amendments to his financial disclosure forms at the request of Ethics Committee staff.  


The committee's public admonishment marks the strongest statement against a member from the panel in years, according to government ethics watchdogs

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) immediately seized on the letter, saying it "should outrage every New Jersey voter." 

“The Senate Ethics Committee found what was already crystal clear from Menendez’s criminal trial — Bob Menendez is a crook and an embarrassment," said Bob Salera, a spokesman for the NRSC.

The letter comes after the Senate Ethics Committee restarted its inquiry into Menendez in November. That move was made after a judge declared a mistrial in the senator's federal corruption and bribery case. 

Prosecutors alleged that Menendez accepted lavish vacations, gifts and campaign donations from Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor, in exchange for using his office to benefit Melgen’s personal and business interests.

The Justice Department said in January that it would not retry the case. 

Members of the Senate Ethics Committee noted in their public letter they considered that he wasn't convicted, but said that outcome "neither enforces nor supplants the Senate's rules or standards of conduct, and the Committee's action stands independent from that result.

Menendez was reinstated as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee in February after the Justice Department dismissed the charges against him. 

A senior Democratic aide said on Thursday that the Ethics Committee's admonition won't impact his position as the top Democrat on the committee.

Updated: 7:19 p.m.