A fistful of watches

Senator Robert Menendez wants to hang on to his Senate seat and who can blame him? It has served him well. The original indictment handed up against Menendez last year alleged a mind-boggling level of depravity and corruption. Among other things, he seems to have abused his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a disgusting manner. The betrayal of trust involved is difficult to fathom if not to credit.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has now filed a superseding indictment in which it is alleged that Menendez also sought corruptly to influence the government of Qatar in addition to the government of Egypt on behalf of New Jersey business associates including Fred Daibes. In paragraph 58 it is alleged that Daibes offered Menendez luxury wristwatches via an encrypted messaging app in exchange for his facilitating Daibes’s business with Qatar. The same paragraph also includes photos of the watches depicted on a computer monitor in a message sent to Menendez.

So far as I can tell, no wristwatches changed hands. No new crimes are alleged. Rather, the factual allegations of the original complaint are amplified to indicate that representatives of the Qatari government provided “a close relative” of Menendez’s wife with tickets to a Formula One race in Miami (see paragraphs 63 and 66) and that Daibes gave Menendez at least one gold bar after Daibes received the investment he sought from the Qatari investment (see paragraph 64).

Menendez lawyer Adam Fee denied any wrongdoing by Menendez in a statement Tuesday. The JNS story on the superseding indictment quotes Fee: “The government’s new allegations stink of desperation. Despite what they’ve touted in press releases, the government does not have the proof to back up any of the old or new allegations against Senator Menendez. What they have instead is a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures based on routine, lawful contacts between a senator and his constituents or foreign officials. At all times, Senator Menendez acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt and the many other countries he routinely interacts with.”

At a press conference disputing the original charges this past September, Menendez spoke up on his own behalf. He invoked his Cuban heritage to explain that the massive amount of cash he kept in his possession was a safeguard against confiscation and a provision for “emergencies.” I think it is fair to apply Occam’s razor and infer that Menendez was in a cash business.

The corruption alleged in the original and the superseding indictment is so gross that it gives one pause. Would a sane man in Menendez’s position do what Menendez is alleged to have done? That is one argument Menendez hasn’t tried. I would find it more plausible than the Cuban defense, but only slightly.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.