Amid corruption probe, Menendez says 'I'm not going anywhere'

"I fight for these issues, and for the people of our country every single day." - Sen. Robert Menendez
By Danielle Haynes and Doug G. Ware  |  March 6, 2015 at 4:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Expected to be indicted soon on federal corruption charges, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said late Friday that he doesn't believe he has done anything wrong -- and added that he has no plans to resign from Congress.

The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to charge Menendez with corruption for allegedly using his government influence to favor the business interests of a friend in Florida.

The senator allegedly received gifts and donations from ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen. In exchange, Menendez is accused of advocating on Melgen's behalf when the doctor was accused of overbilling Medicare.

Sources briefed on the investigation told multiple media outlets Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder has approved the pursuit of charges against Menendez. However, Holder has not yet issued a public statement confirming this, despite an inquiry Friday by Fox News. President Barack Obama did not respond to questions about the case as he returned to the White House Friday, following a trip to South Carolina.

"Let me be very clear, very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law," Menendez said to start a news conference late Friday. "Every action that I or my office have taken for the last 23 years I have been privileged to be in the United States Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey, and of this entire country.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I fight for the things that I believe are important," he continued. "I have always worked to keep New Jersey families safe, keep our ports secure, and keep the promises we made after September 11th to keep our first responders fully-equipped and staffed. There may be no member of Congress that fought harder than I did to get the 9/11 Commission's recommendations into public law. So I fight for these issues and for the people of our country every single day."

The New Jersey Democrat followed that by saying, "That's who I am. And I am not going anywhere."

Menendez is also under investigation for allegedly advocating for Melgen's Dominican Republic government contract for port screening equipment. It's unclear if the senator broke the law by doing so.

Melgen donated $700,000 to Democratic senators -- including Menendez -- in 2012. Menendez also flew multiple times to the Dominican Republic as a guest of Melgen's in 2010. The senator reimbursed Melgen $58,000 for the flights after the federal corruption investigation became public in 2013.

"[Regarding] Dr. Melgen, anyone who knows us knows that he and his family and me and my family have been real friends for more than two decades," Menendez said. "We celebrated holidays together, we have been there for family weddings, and sad times like funerals, and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do."

Menendez finished by saying the ongoing investigation precluded him from addressing the matter further.

"As much as I would like to, I cannot make any additional comments or answer any questions," he said. "The time may come to do that, and I hope you will all understand."

In addition to potential criminal charges, the two-term senator also now finds himself facing calls to resign from the office he has held since January 2006.

American Commitment, a grass-roots free-market group, has launched a website and started a petition asking for Menendez's resignation.

"Bob Menendez is entitled to his day in court, which he will have," the group's president, Phil Kerpen, said in a report by the Washington Times. "But he must resign now so that New Jersey can have a senator and America a ranking member who can represent constituents and the national interest free of an ongoing prosecution."

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