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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reiterated his personal support for Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., on Tuesday, the day after reports cast further doubt on allegations that Menendez had hired prostitutes while traveling in the Dominican Republic.
Asked whether the Senate Ethics Committee should continue looking into Menendez’s activities, Reid told reporters, “The Ethics Committee will do what they feel is appropriate. I’m a friend of Bob Menendez. He’s a terrific senator and I stand behind him all the way.”
Because both the Ethics panel and the Justice Department have reportedly been looking into Menendez’s relationship with a wealthy Florida eye doctor and their trips to the Dominican Republic, senators and aides have been generally reluctant to comment on any of the allegations against Menendez, preferring to allow the process to play out. Reid is a former chairman of the Senate Ethics panel.
Reid’s comments came after the Washington Post reported that a woman identified as an escort recanted a story about engaging in sexual conduct with Menendez in exchange for money during travel to the Dominican Republic. The Post reported that the woman had been presented with a script and that a videotaped interview was somehow staged.
The Daily Caller, which first reported the prostitution allegations shortly before the November 2012 elections, has responded and says the woman referenced by the newspaper is not one of the individuals who made the original charges. The Daily Caller also posted a video of two women who allege they were paid to have sex with the senator.
But on Tuesday, ABC News reported that it too had interviewed the women last year, but found their credibility lacking. ABC News said the women it interviewed gave almost identical accounts of their alleged encounters with the senator. “Asked during the interview with ABC News how she knew that the man named ‘Bob’ was a United States Senator, one of the other women said she had put the name ‘Bob’ into a web search site and a picture of Menendez popped up,” ABC News wrote.
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol Monday, Menendez took the Post report as a positive development, in part because it involved sworn affidavits in a Dominican court proceeding.
“I’ve always said that these are all false, they’re smears, and so I look forward to seeing whatever the Dominican courts have to prove what I’ve said all along” Menendez said.
Reid was also asked if he thought federal officials should continue to investigate the possibility that someone bribed women in the Dominican Republic to make a false report, but he did not respond to that directly.
Even if the allegations about soliciting prostitutes are categorically false, the Ethics Committee and federal prosecutors could have plenty of other material to look at related to the senator’s relationship with South Florida eye doctor, political donor and friend Salomon Melgen.
Separately, Menendez filed a termination notice Feb. 28 for his “To Uphold the Constitution” legal defense fund, according to records maintained by Political Moneyline. Melgen was among the main contributors to that fund, which was set up in relation to an attempt to recall Menendez from office. That recall effort was eventually found unconstitutional.