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Justice Department Ready to Rumble With Menendez

DOJ lawyers (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The team prosecuting Sen. Robert Menendez is firing back against accusations of misconduct in the government's corruption case, calling the New Jersey Democrat's legal arguments "meritless" and sensational.  

On Monday, Department of Justice lawyers filed five briefs, spanning nearly 230 pages, in response to 14 motions from Menendez's legal team alleging perjury, grand jury abuse and violations of the senator's constitutional rights. The DOJ characterizes the July 20 filings from Menendez,  which could push back the start of the case, as redundant and inaccurate. "The charges in this case are the result of a careful and professional investigation, and the quid pro quo outlined in the indictment is clear and unmistakable. The defendants’ motions do nothing to alter that," the DOJ states, referring to an alleged stream of bribes from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.  Criticized for injecting sexual innuendo into its charging documents, the DOJ states testimony from girlfriends of Melgen and Menendez provided the grand jury with eyewitness evidence of the corrupt relationship between the two. The DOJ also argues the corruption charges, stemming from an investigation into allegations of underage prostitution, are not tainted by the unproven tips.  

"The defendants’ sensational motion titles and hyperbolic section headings are supported by anecdotes so unremarkable and demonstrably false that they suggest the defendants wrote the titles and headings before the indictment was returned, and then struggled to fill the empty spaces in between after having received discovery," one court document states.  

The DOJ also pushed back on accusations of allegations of false testimony from an FBI agent. Citing reports of FBI interviews with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and former Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, government lawyers argue that the agent's testimony is corroborated.  

"At bottom, what the defendants characterize as perjury is merely evidence that conflicts with their public protestations of innocence," the DOJ states in response.  

The filings addresses Menendez's concerns about perceived press leaks. For instance, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit inadvertently posted a sealed opinion from the grand jury on its website, the DOJ alerted the court and the clerk's office of the error.  

It was widely reported in early March that an indictment was imminent, but the DOJ states it would be "illogical" to suggest that the government would leak its timeline.

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