Feds to retry Senator Bob Menendez in bribery case

The Department of Justice announced Friday it intends to retry New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, two months after a federal judge declared a mistrial in the high-profile bribery case.

“Today, the United States filed a notice of intent to retry Sen. Robert Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen and requested that the court set the case for retrial at the earliest possible date,” Department of Justice spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement. “The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and warrants retrial before a jury of citizens in the District of New Jersey. “

Hornbuckle said the decision to retry the case was “based on the facts and the law, following a careful review.”

“We regret that the DOJ, after spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars, and failing to prove a single allegation in a court of law, has decided to double down on an unjust prosecution," according to a statement release by Menendez' office. "Evidently, they did not hear the overwhelming voices of the New Jerseyans who served on the jury this fall.  Senator Menendez fully intends to be vindicated -- again.”

In November, a federal judge declared a mistrial after jurors twice reported they were hopelessly deadlocked.

“There’s no alternative to declaring a mistrial,” U.S. District Court Judge William Walls said at the time.

The mistrial was seen as a major victory for Menendez and a blow to the Justice Department whose efforts to go after politicians in recent years have not been successful.

Outside the courthouse after the mistrial, an emotional Menendez made clear that he would be out for political vengeance.

"Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot stand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County could grow up to be a United States senator and be honest," said the 63-year-old son of Cuban immigrants.

Juror Edward Norris, a 49-year-old equipment operator, told reporters he didn’t “think the government proved anything.”

Norris told reporters that 10 people on the jury wanted to acquit Menendez of all charges while two held out for conviction.

The mistrial brought an inconclusive end to the two-and-a-half month trial.

But Former federal and state corruption prosecutor Daniel Alonzo told Fox News he isn't surprised by the DOJ announcement. 

“This decision is not surprising. The government believed in its case when it brought the charges, believed in it when it went to the jury, and obviously believes in it now. Although it’s not always the case, retrials usually favor the prosecution, which uses the experience of the first trial to try to fix weaknesses in the case and anticipate defense arguments the second time around.

Menendez is up for re-election to the U.S. Senate this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called on the Ethics Committee to investigate Menendez for possible violations of the public trust and the Senate code of conduct.

The case against Menendez marked the first time in almost a decade that a sitting U.S. senator faced a federal bribery charge.

According to the criminal complaint, Menendez greased wheels for Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.

Among other things, Menendez was accused of helping obtain visas for several of Melgen’s girlfriends as well as lobby the State Department on his behalf regarding a $500 million port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

Melgen, in turn, paid for private jets, hotel rooms and forked over nearly $75,000 in campaign contributions to Menendez. 

The defense argued that the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two men who were "like brothers."

In Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell's closing argument, he used the words "friend," "friends" or "friendship" more than 80 times.

The Menendez case was the first major federal bribery trial since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 threw out the conviction of Republican former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and narrowed the definition of bribery.