Menendez's 'Crisis Team' Failing to Bail Out Embattled Senator
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez has employed a variety of new staffers in his attempt to bail himself out of the scandal emanating from his connections to Democratic Party mega-donor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Though he has put together what some might consider a Democratic Party consultant all-star team, he still is failing to fend off the salacious scandal threatening his political career.
Most notably, perhaps, Menendez hired Democratic press operative Matt Miller, the man who got President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder out of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation scandal in the administration’s early days. The Legal Times reported recently that the embattled Senator has also employed Democratic crisis lawyers including McDermott Will & Emery partner Stephen Ryan and Perkins Cole partner Marc Elias.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring told Breitbart News he finds it hard for even the most talented of political crisis teams to defend a politician if that politician’s record really is corrupt. The charges swirling around Menendez are just allegations at this point, but the number of them raise troubling questions.
"The best lawyers and operatives are only as effective as their client, and in this case that's Senator Menendez whose legal troubles seem deeper than the 9th circle of Dante's Inferno,” Dayspring said in an email. “Even the best chef can't make chicken salad out of chicken…well you know the saying.”
While Miller has successfully planted a couple of stories in mainstream media outlets, they have failed to gain any traction. One such piece was a Washington Post article that rehashed month-old news, re-confirming the fact the FBI is investigating Menendez for alleged solicitation of prostitutes, some of whom allegedly may have been underage, in the Dominican Republic with Melgen. The pro-Menendez highlight in the Post piece was a phrase inserted into the article’s opening paragraph that said the FBI “has found no evidence to support the claim” Menendez allegedly “patronized prostitutes” in the Dominican.
The Post thought so highly of that Friday night story last week that it blasted it out in a breaking news alert to web subscribers.
The Post anonymously cites “two people familiar with the investigation” as sources for that claim. What the Post does not say is that claim directly contradicts an email Miami-based FBI special agent Regino Chavez sent to a tipster on the prostitution allegations, a person who goes by the name “Peter Williams,” in September 2012. In that email, Chavez said the FBI has confirmed most of the information “Williams” provided to investigators. The only information “Williams” provided the FBI with, as far as what is publicly available through emails leaked online, was related to the prostitution solicitation allegations facet of the Menendez scandal. “As far as the information you have provided, we have been able to confirm most of it,” Chavez wrote to the tipster on September 12, 2012. “We know that you are providing accurate information.”
Even though the evidence publicly available directly contradicts the Post’s claim that investigators were not able to find evidence to support the prostitution allegations, Miller was able to use that Post claim to plant a couple stories in the leftwing press with that talking point and get them to attribute it to the Post. But as the week dragged on, by and large, Miller’s effort fell flat. Most reporters did not fall for it.
The very next day, another Miller creation ran in the New York Times. The piece, written by Eric Lipton, was laden with inaccuracies. As Breitbart News has documented, the piece incorrectly labeled National Legal and Policy Center chairman Ken Boehm as the person behind the story and tried to paint it as a partisan smear job from Republicans and GOP-aligned organizations. Polling data released Thursday shows this charge has not stuck, either. A whopping 67 percent of New Jersey voters believe the allegations are worthy of investigation while only 23 percent think this scandal has politically-motivated origins.
The NLPC’s Peter Flaherty further destroyed the Times’ inaccurate reporting in a follow-up blog post, in which he accuses Lipton of a “serious breach of journalistic ethics.”
While a couple of far leftwing bloggers and political personalities tried to push forward the narrative Miller created in Lipton’s article, it largely flopped upon further inspection.
To make matters even worse for Menendez, since both attempts from the country’s two major liberal newspapers of record failed to bail out the New Jersey Democrat, both newspapers have reversed course and come out with more damning pieces on the embattled New Jersey Democratic senator.
The Post ripped Menendez for his involvement in a port deal dispute in the Dominican that would, if enforced, allow his donor Melgen to reap hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Times piece was even more critical. Under the headline, “Amid Questions on Ethics, Battle-Tested Senator Digs In,” Times reporters Raymond Hernandez and Sam Dolnick open the piece with how Menendez keeps avoiding reporters on Capitol Hill by using “little-used routes in the nation’s Capitol to avoid attention.”
The Times notes that while Menendez has fended off political crises before, this one is different. In addition to Miller as his crisis press flack, the Times reporters wrote that Menendez “has even hired a prominent lawyer well versed in Congressional investigations.”
Later in their piece, Hernandez and Dolnick describe Menendez’s digging in as the senator having “hired an aggressive crisis team.”
Overall, that crisis team’s narratives are not sticking, and their defenses are not working. In addition to more details of alleged Menendez corruption continually seeping out as the weeks drag on, polling data shows the New Jersey senator has lost the confidence of his state’s voters a mere three months after they handily re-elected him. Perhaps the most telling revelation from the latest Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday is that only 28 percent of voters from his state think he is “honest and trustworthy” compared to 44 percent who think he is neither honest nor trustworthy.