Me­nen­dez fights charges in court, courts public out­side

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Michael Catal­ini

NE­WARK » U.S. Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez has spent about 30 hours over the last two weeks in a New Jersey court­room fight­ing for his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and free­dom, while show­ing lit­tle sign out­side the court­room he’s in the mid­dle of a fed­eral cor­rup­tion trial.

The New Jersey Demo­crat is de­fend­ing him­self against charges he lob­bied gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on be­half of a Florida eye doc­tor in ex­change for cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and lux­ury va­ca­tions, and the trial is keep­ing him away from votes in Wash­ing­ton but not from Se­nate work en­tirely.

Af­ter pros­e­cu­tors slammed him on the first day of the trial, Me­nen­dez at­tended a rally of about 100 peo­ple out­side a fed­eral build­ing to protest Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to end de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tion for young im­mi­grants liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Dur­ing a day of tes­ti­mony from two women Me­nen­dez is ac­cused of help­ing get visas as part of a bribery con­spir­acy, his Twit­ter ac­count blasted out mes­sages say­ing he was “out­raged” at Equifax, the credit-rat­ing agency that was hacked, ex­pos­ing the So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers and other per­sonal data of about 143 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Me­nen­dez said he will work to pre­serve the right to sue for those af­fected by the breach.

The flurry of tweets, news re­leases and public events comes as Me­nen­dez is fight­ing for his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture. Repub­li­cans are al­ready try­ing to pres­sure Se­nate Democrats to call for Me­nen­dez’s res­ig­na­tion if he’s con­victed, which would al­low Repub­li­can New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to choose his re­place­ment to fill out his term. Me­nen­dez has pleaded not guilty.

His ad­vis­ers say his work is an ef­fort to per­se­vere through an “un­just time in his life.”

“He has cho­sen to con­tinue his fight for New Jersey while at the same time fight­ing to clear his good name, when most peo­ple un­der these con­di­tions would’ve sim­ply col­lapsed,” se­nior po­lit­i­cal ad­viser Mike Soli­man said.

The spir­ited de­fense dur­ing the trial fol­lows the script Me­nen­dez’s team has used since he was in­dicted in 2015.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

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