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Senate Ethics Committee admonishes Menendez for improper gifts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics mentioned on Thursday that Senator Robert Menendez violated congressional guidelines by “knowingly and repeatedly” accepting impermissible gifts over a six-year interval and should repay their honest market worth.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) waits to query Jerome Powell on his nomination to change into chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve throughout a listening to earlier than the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, was indicted a number of years in the past on felony corruption fees associated to the gifts that he acquired from Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye physician who was convicted of Medicare fraud earlier this yr.

Menendez’s trial ended with a hung jury late final yr and Justice Department prosecutors subsequently requested the choose to dismiss the fees in opposition to him.

Despite the court docket end result, the Ethics Committee, made up of three Republican senators and three Democratic senators, discovered that he violated Senate guidelines.

“The Committee has found that over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen,” the committee wrote in a letter to Menendez launched on Thursday.

Melgen paid for Menendez to take non-public and industrial flights, and keep at a luxurious resort in Paris and at a villa within the Dominican Republic, the committee mentioned.

During the identical interval, Menendez used his standing as a senator to assist Melgen, together with by intervening after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services discovered that Melgen had overbilled them by $eight.9 million, the committee mentioned.

“The Committee concludes that your actions violated Senate Rules and related statutes, and reflected discredit upon the Senate,” it continued, saying Menendez was “severely admonished” for his actions.

Menendez’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The committee started its evaluate of Menendez in 2012 however paused it in the course of the felony probe, as is customized. The committee’s evaluate resumed in November 2017 as soon as the felony fees in opposition to Menendez have been dismissed.

After an preliminary interval of evaluate, the committee usually decides whether or not to dismiss the matter fully, or determines there was proof of guidelines violations that have been inadvertent or minor. If there may be proof, the committee can nonetheless determine to dismiss the matter, or challenge a public letter of admonition, such because the one acquired by Menendez.

If the committee decides there may be sufficient proof to start what it calls an adjudicatory evaluate, it will probably result in a proper investigation and trial leading to extra critical punishments resembling censure or expulsion. Such punishment is uncommon and no U.S. senator has been expelled for the reason that U.S. Civil War within the 1860s.

Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Tom Brown

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