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Judge Rules Public Corruption Trial of Senator Bob Menendez Will Not Be Put on Hold So He Can Vote in Senate

The federal judge presiding over the public corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez and co-defendant Dr. Salomon Melgen ruled on Tuesday that the trial, scheduled to begin on September 6, will not be put on hold to allow Menendez to return to Washington, D.C. to cast his vote in the Senate.

“When the 115th Congress returns to Washington on Sept. 5, Senator Robert Menendez will likely be absent . . . But when the Senate moves to vote on major bills during the fall – including on the debt ceiling, his plan to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program, even an unpredictable major foreign policy decision – Senator Menendez will be caught between his desire to remain in front of jurors and his congressional obligation to fight for his constituents” the New York Times reported:

His lawyers brought this issue before Judge William H. Walls on Tuesday, hoping to minimize the impact any court absence might have.

They made three requests: delay the start of the trial until after the fall congressional session; agree to postpone the trial on days when a key vote would be taking place; or have the judge formally explain to the jury that the senator could not be in court because he was in Washington.

Mr. Walls dismissed all three requests.

Jury selection in the trial began on Tuesday.

Menendez’s potential absence could play a significant role in key votes in the Senate on the debt ceiling, the proposed border wall, and Obamacare, as Fox News’ Chad Pergram tweeted on Thursday morning.

 

With Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in charge of the Senate’s calendar, Democrats face the real possibility of not having Menendez’s vote available on some or all of these important votes.

Judge Walls’ decision on Tuesday marks the first time that Menendez’s pending trial on public corruption charges will hurt the ability of Senate Democrats to pursue their political agenda.

Until now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been publicly supportive of the embattled Menendez, and while Schumer has given no indication of a change in that level of support, the bottom line in Washington is always power and politics.

For his part, Menendez has vigorously asserted his innocence, and vows to stand for re-election in 2018.

But with the conviction in April of co-defendant Melgen on 67 felony counts of Medicare fraud that are directly related to the sort of illegal lobbying the federal government alleges Menendez undertook on Melgen’s behalf, the surprising sentencing delay on those convictions granted to Melgen in August, the political and legal environment surrounding Menendez has now shifted to increasingly place him on the defensive.

 

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