U.S. Senator Bob Menendez told The Star Ledger last night that he will not step down from his new appointment as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the NY Times has called for him to do.
“I have no intention of doing that whatsoever because I don’t believe anything rises to the need to do so,” Menendez said tonight at a ball for D.A.R.E. New Jersey.
Menendez said he forgot to pay the $58,500 for two flights on his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen’s private jet because he was busy.
He said his intervention with the State Department on behalf of Melgen’s Dominican port security company…..he held a Senate Sub-Committee hearing for Melgen’s company…was no different than his advocacy on the port security issue domestically and abroad.
“The bottom line is I was advocating for ports to have screening just as I’ve advocated and helped pass amendments here in the United States,”
Menendez said his intervention on Melgen’s behalf with federal health care officials was a matter trying to clear up ambiguities on the governments part in how Melgen’s eye care clinic should submit bills for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
On the Medicare billing, Menendez said he was telling officials “there are ambiguities in the process by which you are telling providers what you should or should not do.”
“I would just also note that nothing of the questions that have been raised ended up being of any benefit – of any benefit – to the doctor.”
Melgen is accused of defrauding $8.9 million of government health care payments and owes the IRS $11 million.
The Senator said that the allegations that he had sex with prostitutes and teenagers at Melgen’s Dominican Republic mansion were politically motivated “smears.”
“It is no coincidence that it was being pedaled before the elections. No coincidence that it gets pedaled again as I assume the chairmanship. No coincidence that we have someone who’s never willing to meet anyone in the press or otherwise… You have to question what is the nature of the drive,” said Menendez.
Another Star Ledger article posted early this morning outlines how Melgen’s political contributions to Menendez coincided with the senator’s actions on behalf of his friend.