POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Menendez trial: Emails show staffers involved in helping Melgen

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

FBI special agent, Alan Mohl took the stand again Tuesday. It was the fourth time federal prosecutors have called him to testify.

Defense Attorney Abbe Lowell quipped, “I see more of you than my family.”

There were no other witnesses Tuesday and the session was a bit tedious, but prosecutors scored some points. They used 37 email exchanges to show how busy Sen. Bob Menendez’s top staffers were trying to help Dr. Salomon Melgen. The chief of staff, the deputy chief and legislative director were all over the email chains. Menendez is accused of going to bat for Melgen with government agencies in return for gifts, trips and campaign contributions.

One such agency was CMS, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was demanding a repayment from Melgen of $8.9 million.

In 2009, Menendez wrote to his Chief of Staff Danny O’Brien, “Dr. Melgen is still in the non-litigant stage, so we should see who has the best juice at CMS and the Department of Health.”

Three years later, Menendez would still be pushing his friend’s case. He met with CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner in 2012 and with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius two months later. Around the same time, Melgen gave $20,000 to a legal defense fund Menendez had set up sometime earlier.

O’Brien wrote to Melgen’s son-in-law, Eduardo Rodriguez, “There may be other opportunities out there for the doctor.”

Three weeks later, Melgen sent a check for $300,000 to a Washington, D.C. PAC earmarked for Menendez’s re-election.

The head of the PAC, Jake Perry, wrote, “Dr. Sal. Just got your check. Thank you. You are the best!”

Another check for $300,000 arrived in October. Government prosecutors were effective in showing the contributions timed closely to Menendez’s favors for Melgen. The question is, was this bribery?

Judge William Walls sent the jury out while lawyers argued the admissibility of the first news article about the case.

A Washington Post headline in 2013 read: “Sen. Menendez contacts top officials in friend’s Medicare dispute.”

Jurors heard it read once, but then it was ruled inadmissible. The day ended with the FBI agent reading from Menendez’s website that if you’re from outside New Jersey and seeking the senator’s help, contact your home state senator. Melgen, of course, is an an ophthalmologist in Florida.