When Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was first indicted on corruption charges on April Fool’s Day 2015, there was widespread suspicion in the pro-Israel community that he was being punished by President Barack Obama for opposing the Iran nuclear deal.
Menendez was the second Democrat in the Senate to oppose the deal after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), and he was also the most vociferous public critic of Obama’s policy towards Iran.
A year later, then-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who was often Menendez’s bipartisan partner on Iran sanctions bills, told political donors that he was convinced the Obama administration had prosecuted Melendez in retaliation. “And let me say something about Bob Menendez. I believe that Bob Menendez was indicted solely on the crime of opposing the President on Iran,” Kirk said, according to a secret audio recording of a Chicago fundraiser given to Politico.
That suspicion faded somewhat after Menendez’s friend and benefactor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, was convicted earlier this year on 67 counts of Medicare fraud. The judge in Menendez’s case also seemed inclined to believe that there was a reasonable chance the jury would convict him. But in the end, the jury could not decide whether Menendez had broken the law when he did favors for Melgen, or whether he simply did what they assume all politicians do.
Certainly Melgen had other friends in the Democratic Party, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They did not face prosecution. Moreover, it soon emerged that the Obama administration had spied on opponents of the Iran deal, including members of Congress, wiretapping Israeli officials and unmasking the American citizens on the line.
Given those methods, and the mistrial, it seems more likely that Menendez was the victim of a political hit.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.