WSJ Editorial Board: The Menendez Charges

Sunday, March 8, 2015
From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

The Menendez Charges

The timing has produced skepticism on the right and left.

The partisan default in cases of alleged political corruption is for everyone of the opposite party or philosophy to pile on. So it speaks volumes about the lost credibility of President Obama’s Justice Department that last week's leaks to the media that federal charges are being prepared against Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has produced skepticism across the ideological divide.

It’s impossible to judge the charges without a formal indictment, and Mr. Menendez is from New Jersey, which rivals Chicago as a laugh line about political corruption. The stories say Mr. Menendez will be charged with using his office to aid a friend and donor, Florida eye-doctor Salomon Melgen, with federal business. Mr. Menendez responded by saying, “I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.”

The skepticism results from the politicized nature of Eric Holder’s Justice Department as well as previous abuses in its Public Integrity Section. Recall the indictment of the late Senator Ted Stevens in the middle of his re-election campaign in 2008. His conviction was set aside after a judge found the prosecution had withheld “significant” exculpatory evidence.

The timing of the Menendez charges is also politically suspicious. The Senate Democrat is a leading critic of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy on Russia, Cuba and Iran. Mr. Obama recently accused critics of his Iran diplomacy of bowing to their political donors—that is, to Jewish Americans. According to the New York Times, Mr. Menendez rose at a private meeting of Democratic Senators to tell the President he was personally offended by those remarks. The negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are coming to a head this month, and it doesn’t hurt the President if a prominent critic is operating under an ethical cloud.

All of which is to say that it’s important to look closely at the evidence and charges in this case and test them before a jury. This Justice Department deserves to be treated with as much doubt as any New Jersey politician.