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Sen. Menendez pleads not guilty to federal corruption charges

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 02: US Sen. Robert Menendez speaks next to attorney Abbe Lowell outside the federal court after he was indicted on corruption charges on April 2, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.

US Senator Robert Menendez has pleaded not guilty to 14 federal charges of corruption.

The New Jersey Democrat was indicted on Wednesday on bribery and conspiracy offenses in connection with an ongoing investigation into his unlawful dealings with Salomon Melgen, a Florida doctor and longtime political donor.

A bribery charge is among the most serious accusations of corruption the federal government can make.

Menendez pleaded not guilty in Newark court on Thursday.

The senator, who has held his seat since 2006, was charged with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for political favors.

He will have to turn over his passport, according to multiple reports.

“Prosecutors at the Justice Department don't know the difference between friendship and corruption and have chosen to twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something that is improper," Menendez said during a brief press conference on Wednesday.

Menendez is the first US senator to face federal bribery charges since 1980 when Harrison A. Williams Jr., another New Jersey Democrat, was indicted as part of the federal corruption investigation known as Abscam.

Menendez is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key voice on Capitol Hill to call for increased sanctions against Iran.

Melgen, who was also named in the incitement, pleaded not guilty Thursday.

HRJ/HRJ


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