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Menendez set to appear in court

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) will appear in court Thursday, where he’s expected to plead not guilty to charges of corruption.

A Justice Department spokesperson said the New Jersey Democrat is expected to appear at 1 p.m. at a federal court in Newark, N.J. The hearing marks Menendez’s first appearance in court after being charged Wednesday with 14 counts of corruption.
Menendez is expected to plead not guilty to those charges, which include conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, in connection with his relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist and political donor. Melgen has also been charged.

The senator responded to the charges during an impassioned speech Wednesday night in Newark, where he reiterated that he believes he is innocent and will not be resigning his Senate seat.

“I am angry and ready to fight,” he said, adding he has “always conducted myself in accordance with the law.”

The Justice Department alleges Melgen bribed Menendez with gifts, including the use of private jets and a Caribbean villa, as well as donations to his legal defense fund set up to pay for legal fees associated with federal and congressional ethics investigations.
The 68-page indictment charges that Menendez hid many of those gifts and did not report any that he received between 2007 and 2012.
Menendez fired back Wednesday, saying that federal prosecutors don’t know the “difference between friendship and corruption.”
While Democrats have rallied around Menendez in the wake of the charges, the scandal has temporarily cost him the top Democratic spot on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez announced Wednesday night that he would step down from the post for the time being. Though Democratic caucus rules don’t require it, he wrote in a letter to Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that he believes it is “in the best interests of the Committee, my colleagues, and the Senate.”
Source: The Hill

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