Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senator Pursues Smear Charges

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senator Pursues Smear Charges

Article excerpt

Hours after Dominican police announced that they concluded allegations of trysts with prostitutes came from women paid to lie, Sen. Bob Menendez called on United States authorities Monday to find those behind the "smear campaign."

Menendez, D-N.J., faces investigations by the Senate's Ethics Committee, a federal grand jury in Florida and the Justice Department in Washington, published reports have said, but the Dominican police report casts further doubt on the most salacious allegations -- that a top donor supplied him with prostitutes.

"I simply believe that continues to show this was a smear from the very beginning and I hope federal authorities here will prosecute just like the Dominican authorities are," Menendez said Monday as he walked to a vote in the Capitol.

Menendez faces an investigation after accepting two free flights in 2010 on a private plane owned by campaign contributor Salomon Melgen, and for pressing federal officials about issues in which Melgen had a financial stake.

Menendez has said it was a "mistake" not to reimburse Melgen and did so this year after allegations surfaced, but maintains he has acted properly otherwise.

He also has repeatedly denied that Melgen, a Florida eye surgeon, supplied him with prostitutes while they stayed at Melgen's vacation home in the Dominican Republic.

Police in the Dominican Republic said that they now believe that the three women who said in videotaped interviews they had sex with Menendez had actually been paid by an attorney to lie.

The conservative website that first published those allegations, The Daily Caller, reported Monday that it would "continue to investigate the case" because it was not sure the women police spoke with were the same ones they quoted.

A Republican New Jersey politician who cited prostitution repeatedly in a letter to the Senate's Ethics Committee claimed he stood by his complaint, even while erroneously claiming he hadn't cited prostitutes.

Dominican authorities are seeking to interview attorney Melanio Figueroa, accused by the women of paying them between $300 and $425 for the video interviews, police spokesman Maximo Baez said.

Police have not determined Figueroa's motive or whether he was paid by someone to set up the interviews, Baez said. …

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