LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Pre-Trial Debate Over Classified Information in Menendez Corruption Trial

Prosecutors preparing to try Sen. Robert Menendez on corruption charges may not give the U.S. senator’s defense team crucial evidence citing national security. A federal judge heard arguments today. NJTV News Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron was in the courtroom and spoke with Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the arguments.

Aron said it was just pre-trial sparring in the courtroom with both defendants — Menendez and Salomon Melgen — absent today.

“The government says that it has some classified information that it doesn’t particularity want to share with the defense,” Aron said. “The defense suspects that that classified information might have something to do with Cuba — that this whole investigation might’ve started with the Cuban government and that’s what the classified information would be about. That would undermine some of the credibility of the case against Menendez and Melgen if it was a dirty trick out of Cuba. The judge heard arguments. He said he’ll decide which of that classified information gets shared with the defense and which not.”

On Monday, the defense filed 15 motions to dismiss the indictments against Menendez and Melgen.

“They have some pretty interesting arguments: a shoddy investigation by the FBI, the Department of Justice prosecutor misleading the grand jury they allege, the use of sex to kind of titillate the grand jurors and inflame the jurors,” Aron said. “At the heart of the whole case is whether Menendez — by interceding for Melgen on the issues of Medicare and port security in the Dominican Republic — was operating in the normal sphere as a legislator, which is protected by the speech and debate clause of the Constitution, or whether it was part of some quid pro quo. The defense team is saying he was just being a legislator. He had Port Newark and Port Elizabeth in his district in the House of Representatives, he knows port security. He was really interested in whether the ports in the Dominican Republic are secure or not. Not in whether he can help his friend, Dr. Melgen, with a contract down there.”