Powerful New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez was indicted on Wednesday on eight counts of bribery as well as conspiracy following a lengthy federal investigation into the alleged trading of political favors for gifts from a wealthy supporter.
It was a rare and extraordinary move by the Obama Justice Department, as The New York Times notes, “the first federal bribery charges against a sitting senator in a generation.”
The 61-year-old lawmaker has angrily denied the charges and vowed to fight them.
While the federal investigation into Menendez and his dealings with a political benefactor has been well known through the years it’s been going on, the indictment and its potential consequences for the senator’s political future, as well as possible imprisonment, have some wondering about the timing of the DOJ’s move against Menendez.
What’s reported by Politico and by The Hill provide interesting context for considering, “why now?”
Immediately after the announcement of the Menendez indictment on Wednesday, Politico reported that the New Jersey Democrat had made up his mind about voting to confirm President Obama’s pick to be the next U.S. attorney general.
In fact. the Politico piece notes in it’s opening sentence, “Loretta Lynch’s confirmation for attorney general may have been saved.”
Only last week — before the DOJ leveled the very serious charges against Menendez — the senator had indicated he was undecided on Lynch’s confirmation as the first black woman to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
Menendez’s support was critical because with his vote, combined with the rest of the Senate Democratic Caucus and the four declared Republican backers, put the number of votes for Lynch right at 50.
That means Lynch, currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would be confirmed — provided that Vice President Joe Biden broke a tie.
Add to the sudden Menendez decision to support Loretta Lynch for the top job at Justice, the fact that his indictment means Congress’s chances of passing Iran legislation are now in doubt — legislation that President Obama doesn’t want to land on his desk.
The Hill reports on the critical consequence of the decision by Sen. Menendez to step aside as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
The Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote April 14 on the bill [Menendez] co-authored with [Sen. Bob] Corker calling for Senate review of an Iran [nuclear] deal.
If Menendez is out of the picture long-term, it could sap Democratic support for legislation that the White House has already threatened to veto.
The article in The Hill points out that the next most senior Democrat on the committee after Menendez is Sen. Barbara Boxer, “an ally of President Obama who opposes passing any Iran legislation before the final June 30 deadline in the talks.”
So, with a huge hammer hanging over the head of Robert Menendez — a hammer that could drop decades in prison on the senator if he’s found guilty of corruption — Obama appears to be in a much more controlling position on two items of great significance to his political agenda, as well as his legacy as president.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom