POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Menendez trial highlights Melgen’s campaign contributions

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday turned the focus to campaign contributions. They called to the stand Jake Perry, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.

In 2012, he ran the fundraising operation for U.S. Senate Democrats. Sen. Bob Menendez was up for re-election that year.

Menendez’ friend and co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, gave $600,000 to Perry’s committee, earmarked for the New Jersey race. Prosecutor Peter Koski displayed two checks for $300,000 each and Perry confirmed for the jury they were sent from Melgen to the election Super PAC.

“Did you ever ask Dr. Melgen for this money?” asked Koski.

“No,” replied Perry.

“Do you know who did?” asked Koski.

“I do not,” said Perry.

The prosecutor implied that Menendez asked for the donations, but he couldn’t prove it. The government keeps trying to establish a nexus between gifts from Melgen to Menendez and official favors from Menendez for Melgen. So far, the evidence is circumstantial.

Jonathan Cogan, a lawyer for Melgen asked Perry, “During the time he was giving donations, did Dr. Melgen ever demand that anybody do anything for him in exchange?”

“No,” said Perry.

Melgen complained to him about his problems with Medicare and a port security contract in the Dominican Republic, Perry said. But, as far as the donations were concerned, he said he never even mentioned them to Menendez.

 

With the trial about to take a five-day break, and with his daughter at his side, Menendez told reporters he was about to catch a train to Washington so he could get back to work.

“I am now, since trial is finished for the week, looking forward to returning to Washington in a few minutes, where I intend to go to the White House for a briefing that I have been asked to attend by the president’s national security advisor on Iran,” he said.

He was asked about President Trump’s discordant comments in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

“I think the president has difficulty both exhibiting empathy and understanding the magnitude … So, the comments that the president’s made, that everything is great and everything is working well, that is not the reality I saw as of Friday,” continued Menendez.

When asked how the trial is going, Menendez commented, “I know you all have the obligation to ask and I will just say that we will make our case in court. I’m not going to make it here.”

The trial resumes next Tuesday.