Robert Menendez Broke the ‘Goldilocks Rule’ of Corruption

Below is my column in The Hill on the indictment of Senator Robert Menendez for bribery, again. As predicted in this column, his colleagues are now expressing disgust at his corruption. However, make no mistake about it, Menendez is not being abandoned due to his corrupt inclination but his conspicuous consumption.

Here is the column:

The massive indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his wife has shaken Washington.

As Senate Foreign Relations chairman, Menendez is one of the most powerful Democratic members of Congress, and someone who has long been a kingmaker in the party. He has also long been accused of open and insatiable corruption.

What made Menendez a standout in Washington was not his corrupt inclinations, but his utter audacity in following them. I was able to witness that signature conduct personally on the floor of the Senate.

In 2010, I defended a federal judge, Thomas Porteous, in his impeachment trial, against charges that he had taken gifts and misused his office for personal gain. The curious thing about Senate trials is that you have a jury composed of people you could strike for cause in a real court. Menendez was among those sitting in judgment of Porteous, but he wasn’t just another face in the Senate crowd — he stood out. It was like arguing a piracy case with Captain Jack Sparrow sitting on the jury.

Menendez himself would later go on trial in 2017 in a major bribery and fraud case involving luxury gifts allegedly exchanged for official favors. Most of us expected the worst when, during jury deliberations, one juror asked the court, “What is a senator?” Menendez dodged the bullet. The jury hung and the Justice Department dropped all charges.

Now Menendez has been slapped with a massive new bribery indictment. The facts are all too familiar, with a long list of lavish gifts allegedly made in exchange for favors.

The indictment details gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, furnishings and other gifts.  His wife was allegedly actively involved in this corruption conspiracy and is also facing criminal charges.

During the Porteous trial, I noted that, at the time of the underlying acts, the senators themselves were accepting free lunches. It was not until later that the rules changed on such gifts. Menendez now stands accused of accepting a host of gifts at that time, including an $8,000 free flight in October 2010, in addition to luxury trips to Paris and a Caribbean villa.

Yet Menendez still demanded the conviction of Porteous, even though the judge was never charged with bribery, and free lunches and the other gifts would not be enough to even register with Menendez.

The question is whether this level of corruption is now enough for Democrats. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently suggested a type of Goldilocks rule for corruption. He warned that people in Washington had better be careful if they want to crack down on the Biden family’s influence-peddling.

“If that’s the new criteria, there are a lot of folks in a lot of industries — not just in politics — where people have family members and relationships and they’re trying to parlay and get a little influence and benefit in that respect. That’s hardly unique.”

It would appear that the question is not corruption, but when a little corruption is “just right.”

If these allegations against Menendez are proven, then he violated Washington’s Goldilocks rule. It would mean that Menendez pursued gifts with a reckless abandon, endangering others whose corruption was more circumspect.

Consider the timeline: It would mean that during the Porteous trial, Menendez was allegedly accepting gifts while condemning and removing from office a judge accused of receiving gifts.

Later, after the jury hung in his first corruption trial, Menendez (according to the Justice Department) almost immediately started taking gifts from new sources.

In a town known for a certain finesse in influence peddling, Menendez broke with industry custom by allegedly accepting direct items like gold and a car. This is classic bribery stuff. There was no labyrinth of shell companies and accounts — just crude old-school corruption, with cash stuffed in clothing and gold bars squirreled away for a rainy day.

Where corrupt figures often refer to getting their beaks wet, Menendez allegedly took a headlong plunge into this pool of corruption. This city has not seen such low-grade alleged bribery since former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was found with $90,000 wrapped like a po boy in his freezer.

Like Jefferson, Menendez will need to be isolated as a pariah for his conspicuous consumption. Yet the public is still being played for chumps. This entire city floats on a sea of corruption as family members and associates sell influence and access to high-ranking officials. Menendez is notorious only for the size of his appetite and the extent of his audacity.

Newsom’s Goldilocks rule for graft is certainly compelling for many in this city. For most of us, it is the very source of the problem as politicians seek to get corruption “just right.”

So get ready for politicians to suddenly declare themselves “shocked, shocked” by the allegations against Menendez. These are the same people who made Menendez the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, twice. They gave him the power of leverage with countries where bribery is an accepted practice. It was like making a known arsonist the CEO of the International Paper Corporation.

In the end, the problem is not Menendez. It is the array of other politicians who enabled him while dismissing his reputation for corruption. To use Newsom’s words, Menendez is “hardly unique” for cashing in on his position. That is precisely the problem.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

295 thoughts on “Robert Menendez Broke the ‘Goldilocks Rule’ of Corruption”

  1. @SenatorMenendez Head of the Foreign Relations was against payments to Iran

    h/e was indicted 2 times…both times
    as Democrats Gave Billions to America Hating Iran!
    7/15 Obama $2 Billion to Iran..
    4/15 Menendez was indicted
    8/23 Biden give $6 Billion to Iran
    8/ 23 Menendez indicted

    1. Looks like they sat on this for a while.
      This is a way to kinda take the heat off of Biden.

      The wild thing… There are ties to Hunter even here.
      And then there’s Newsome with his ties to Hunter as well.

      Menendez will walk. He’s a Dim in Dim Central and has the dirt on Joe Biden.

  2. Hon Jonathan Turley. He was just like the others, he though he could get away with this because of the “Arrogance of Power”, he went to the well too many times.

  3. Well, it is his problem, too.

    Many believe Jim Carter was an ineffective, lousy president. Maybe so, but he sure did one thing right, something desperately, Desperately needed. He, single-handedly restored our confidence in our government’s integrity. We were in serious trouble due to Watergate.

    We need about a thousand more just like him serving in D.C. if we hope to have a chance at remaking America.

    P.S. China ain’t sleeping through our collapse. The RED GIANT is preparing to replace this once upon a time shining city upon a mountain. Mark my words.

  4. Remember when the regime replaced the American flag with the Pride flag at the White House after a transgenderist shot up a Christian school? @AuronMacintyre

  5. Off topic, concerning Motion for Recusal of Judge Chutkan:

    (1) On Sept. 11 Trump’s lawyers filed Motion for Recusal of Judge Chutkan in the DC USA vs Trump case.
    (2) Per Order, on Sept 14 the DOJ filed its Response in opposition.
    (3) Per Order, on Sept 17 Trump’s lawyers filed a Reply to the DOJ Response, whereupon the Motion became ripe for ruling.
    (4) As of 9pm today, Sept 25, it has been more than 2 weeks since the Motion for Recusal was filed, and more than 8 days since the Motion became ripe for ruling per Judge Chutkan’s specific Orders, and Judge Chutkan has yet to enter a ruling onto the docket, despite;;
    (a) having had more time to rule on the Motion for Recusal than she gave the parties time to file the Response and Reply COMBINED,
    (b) having ruled on other issues in FAR less time (often same-day or next day rulings) than she’s taking to NOT rule or in any way respond concerning her own recusal,
    (c) the Motion for Recusal being based ENTIRELY on Judge Chutkan’s clear statements of record that need ZERO research, compared with the Code of Judicial Conduct which requires recusal if a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
    (5) Meanwhile, the DOJ continues to file motions and/or information with the Court, including today’s SECRET pleading entitled “Government’s Classified, Ex Parte, In Camera, and Under Seal Motion for a Protective Order,” which BY DEFINITION neither Trump nor Trump’s lawyers would have access to.

    Conclusion: At this point, Judge Chutkan has a secretive relationship with the DOJ and information of record which neither Trump nor his lawyers have access to. This only compounds the irregularities of this case and accentuates the need for Judge Chutkan to recuse herself IMMEDIATELY.

    1. Ralph, Judge Chutkan had a trial all last week (see article in politico) that may explain the delay.

      1. I might have checked out the Politico article if you’d provided a link, but I don’t have a high enough regard for Politico to go searching for it. I stopped visiting Politico way back when they dumped their comment section.’

        At any rate, it would only take Chutkan a couple of minutes to glance through the Motion for Recusal, refresh her memory as to what she said on the record, and recognize that it’s more than sufficient to require her recusal, which she could have and SHOULD have done in a matter of minutes. There was NO reasonable basis for an unbiased judge to make comments during the sentencing of a J6 defendant insinuating Trump was guilty of crimes for which he hadn’t been charged. The requirement for her recusal or disqualification in Trump’s case isn’t even a close call.

        If she’s too busy to put forth the minimal effort it takes to read her own cited quotes and admit TO HERSELF that they evince bias against Trump, it’s just more reason for recusal.

      2. Wait a minute. I think I found the article that you must be referring to:

        Politico is pure trash on its BEST day, and in this instance there’s barely a paragraph in that article that doesn’t include information upon which to argue that Chutkan needs to recuse herself, including and especially THIS paragraph:

        “Chutkan has rejected attempts by other Jan. 6 defendants to change venues, and during jury selection in the Vo case, she repeated her universal creed: It’s OK to have opinions and biases. What matters, she said, is ‘whether you can put those opinions aside and be fair and impartial’.”

        That statement is literally the OPPOSITE of what the Code of Judicial Conduct says:

        “Rule 2.11: Disqualification [:] (A) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality* might reasonably be questioned …”

        Earth to Chutkan: It’s NOT OK to have biases, especially when there are judges available elsewhere that are free from those biases. The statement also indicates that Judge Chutkan is OK with biased juries under an expectation that people will police their own admitted biases.

        Her stated point of view is literally the OPPOSITE of what the Code of Judicial Conduct requires. It’s actually a confession and a clear statement of why she should not be a judge in the Trump case, and should not be a judge in ANY case, PERIOD.

    2. @Ralph

      Ex Parte communication would be a no no.
      Any evidence presented or even asserted to be true and exist would have to be presented to the defense otherwise a grounds for a mistrial.

      Trump may not gain access, which is debatable. But someone on his defense team would have to have clearance.

  6. James Howard Kunstler today:

    From early on, our government lied about the safety of the vaccines, at the same time that they lied and confabulated about the origins of the Covid-19 virus. They continue lying about all of this to this day even as they appear to prepare for a replay of a pandemic. Now that the weekend is over, you will not read about any of this in The New York Times. Why is that? I will offer my theory: that newspaper’s business model, based on pages and pages of print advertising, is completely broken and it is on financial life-support from the CIA and / or DARPA, probably facilitated by private sector cut-outs laundering the money. That’s how dishonorable the flagship of the US news media is.

    For more you can go to his blog. I’d provide the link but its name includes four letters strung together (following the word “cluster”) that trigger the censor.

    1. None of this will make any real difference. Even if they punish Menendez, it’s not going to get rid of the corruption everywhere in DC and in politics in general. Nor will it stop the increasing abuse of the legal system for political gain.
      The more they abuse the system, the more they have to maintain their control because the risk of serving long prisons terms for their actions if they lose becomes ever greater.

  7. I believe that Joe Biden has allegedly eviscerated and excoriated the record for extorting bribes. Will more ipso facto be forthcoming? Notice how quickly Menendez threw out the race card of he is only being indicted due to his being Hispanic. Now ain’t that a hoot.?

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