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At least one lawmaker apparently forgot the critical World War II lesson that silence means security. Especially on an evening outbound train from Washington, D.C., when you, the lawmaker, are chatting loudly on your cell phone and the enemy is sitting nearby.
The Mr. Loose Lips in this case was Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), who was riding an Amtrak train Thursday night from Union Station to New Jersey to attend his state’s Democratic Party convention.
He had several heated discussions on his cell phone with various people about a scandal breaking that very evening implicating Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
“My sources tell me it’s going to drop tomorrow,” Andrews was overheard telling the person on the other end of the phone.
Indeed, it did drop the next day: The Newark Star-Ledger reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark had subpoenaed records from a nonprofit agency financially linked to Menendez. (Menendez reportedly made $300,000 in rent from the agency while he was in the House and helped award it millions of dollars in federal grants.)
Andrews told the person on the other end of the line that he was headed to the state convention, which he said “should be interesting in light of all this.” (Nice understatement.)
The “enemy” on the train, a Republican who runs a small nonprofit and has no ties to New Jersey politics, took copious notes on the conversations he overheard. He heard Andrews say, “We are still reeling from Torricelli — third strike and you’re out,” a reference, we suppose, to the ethics-driven demise of former Sen. Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.); the messy relationship between Democratic then-Gov. James McGreevey and the man he appointed to a top homeland security job, with whom he was having a gay relationship; and the hot water Menendez finds himself in.
A second source on the train heard all the quotes cited here, except for the “third strike and you’re out” bit.
The “enemy” source surmised that Andrews was talking about the prospect of Democrats having to replace Menendez on the ballot with another Senate nominee. And the source guessed that Andrews, who was passed over when now-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) appointed Menendez to his vacant Senate seat, wants to be that replacement.
The informant heard Andrews say, “A 60-day campaign is [doable]; a 30-day campaign is death.” The second source on the train confirmed that quote but said it had nothing to do with a possible replacement on the ballot. He said it had to do with the timing of the Menendez scandal and whether it would be easier to deal with 30 or 60 days from Election Day.
“There was no discussion of replacing Bob Menendez on the ballot,” the second source said.