When U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was asked to clarify his comment yesterday about not forgetting “those who were digging my political grave,” he said the remark was clear for his intended targets.
“It means that they’re no longer on my Christmas list,” Menendez said this morning in West New York after a reporter asked what his “political grave” remark meant, jokingly questioning if it meant those referenced were no longer receiving a Christmas card.
“I think it speaks for itself. They know who they are and I know who they are.”
Menendez was indicted back on April Fool’s Day in 2015, even back then vowing to be vindicated – noting that the U.S. Justice Department was “tricked” into starting an investigation years ago based on information provided by political opponents.
After an 11-week trial that began on September 5th, U.S. District Court Judge William Walls declared a mistrial due to a hung jury.
Shortly after his indictment dropped, many speculated who Democrats would back in the event that Menendez was forced to vacate his seat.
Former U.S. Senator Bob Toricelli was unabashed in actively trying to garner support for the seat should Menendez get convicted, though he said yesterday that he never had any intention of challenging the incumbent in the primary.
Another name that surfaced more quietly in political circles was Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who was expected to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination until he endorsed eventual winner Phil Murphy and instead announced he’d seek re-election.
This past July, former Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis, who was soundly defeated by Fulop in the November 7th mayoral contest, alleged that Fulop had decided to hire laid off Bergen County sheriff’s officers to build political capital for a potential Senate run.
While a city spokeswoman did not comment at the time, she has since told other media outlets like The Jersey Journal that Fulop never had any intention in running for Senate.
Following the conclusion of Menendez’s trial yesterday, Fulop joined a slew of Democrats, including Murphy, yesterday in saying he would support Menendez if he decided to seek a third term in 2018.
Menendez appears leaning towards doing just that, though it could be a bumpier road than expected as the federal government has the option of re-trying his case and he still faces a probe by the Senate Ethics Committee.
When asked about the investigation, which went on hiatus when he was indicted, the former Union City mayor and Congressman said he did not expect anything to come from it.
“A[n] ethics investigation was started based upon a complaint by the Republicans in New Jersey shortly before, right around, the 2012 election. So this is not a new pursuit. We responded to the ethics committee at the time, forthrightly, we all vented our response, subsequently,” explained Menendez.
“We actually wanted to include those responses at the trial but we were denied the opportunity to do so, unfortunately, by the court. We have been open and transparent.”
Even though he had been cleared legally (at least for now), another reporter wanted to know if Menendez felt he had acted ethically during his relationship with Salomon Melgen: a wealthy ophthalmologist and political donor who the prosecution alleged used Menendez’s influence to gain favors.
The senior Senator was again confident and clear with his response.
“Listen, the bottom line is I believe that when I acted in the way that I acted that it was appropriate, that it was ethical, that I certainly had no willful intent to do anything but be ethical: that’s how I’ve lived my entire life for 43 years in public service,” Menendez said to applause.