The Justice Department announced on Friday that it will retry Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, two months after a jury deadlocked on federal corruption charges against him. The move means Mr. Menendez will have to defend himself again in a year ...
Republicans, who have already been highlighting Mr. Menendez’s legal troubles, say they hope the corruption issue will hurt other Democrats in congressional races in New Jersey. The Democratic Party is targeting several Republican seats in the state as part of an effort to reclaim control of the House.
“The top of the ticket always matters,” said Michael DuHaime, a Republican strategist. “I think Republicans would love a very competitive, strong race at the top.”
And it puts Democrats in New Jersey with growing national profiles, including Senator Cory Booker and Gov. Philip D. Murphy, who took office on Tuesday, in the uncomfortable position of having to defend a senator who is again sitting at the defendant’s table at his corruption trial.
Should Mr. Menendez decide to step down or be convicted and be forced to resign, Mr. Murphy would appoint a replacement who, depending on the timing, would face re-election this November.
Mr. Murphy and Mr. Booker both issued statements of support for Mr. Menendez on Friday.
“I believe he deserves the benefit that is the basis of our entire justice system: we are all innocent until proven otherwise,” Mr. Murphy said. “I won’t speculate past that.”
Mr. Booker said: “It is hard to see how the government can justify another trial, adding to the millions of dollars already spent on this failed case. Bob is a fighter, and I know he’ll keep fighting for New Jersey as this ordeal continues.”
The news that Mr. Menendez would face another trial came in a brief filing by the Justice Department.
“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,” the Justice Department said in a statement, adding, “The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and warrants retrial.”
After his first trial ended, Mr. Menendez locked up nearly every important endorsement in the state, from the newly elected Mr. Murphy to powerful state power brokers such as George E. Norcross and Stephen M. Sweeney, the state senator, making the potential of any meaningful Democratic primary challenge highly unlikely.
Just to be sure, Mr. Menendez stood on the steps of the federal courthouse in Newark after the trial ended and delivered a memorable threat to those he viewed as maneuvering behind the scenes for his seat during the trial.
“To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you,” Mr. Menendez said.
He likely was referring to Robert G. Torricelli, a former Democratic senator from New Jersey, who had been exploring the possibility of running if Mr. Menendez had been convicted. Mr. Torricelli said after the trial that he was merely interested in “protecting the seat” and not in challenging Mr. Menendez in a primary.
But in an interview on Friday, Mr. Torricelli reiterated that the retrial decision was “regrettable” and that he wishes Mr. Menendez all the best, but that he is willing and able to run should the senator get out of the race.
“Yes I’m interested, yes I’m ready,” he said. “We did preparations before to ensure the resources were available and the political support.”
Only one Democrat, Michael Starr Hopkins, a lawyer, has announced a long-shot campaign to challenge Mr. Menendez.
On the Republican side, Bob Hugin, a pharmaceutical executive with ties to former Gov. Chris Christie, has been exploring a run. And members of the state’s Republican congressional delegation have been floated as possible candidates.
“New Jersey Republicans have always planned on this being an aggressively mounted campaign,” said Mr. DuHaime.
Mr. Menendez had been charged with 12 counts of corruption, including six counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud.
Mr. Menendez was accused of doing favors for a friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor from Florida, in exchange for gifts, including rides on his private plane, and political donations. Dr. Melgen was accused in the case and tried alongside Mr. Menendez, but jurors also deadlocked on the charges against him.
After the mistrial last year, jurors said that they had been deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of acquittal, leading some observers to assume that the Department of Justice would not retry the case.
The trial, which lasted for more than two months, was the first major federal corruption trial of a sitting senator since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. That decision, which limited the official acts a politician could be convicted of trading in exchange for a bribe, loomed over the Menendez case from the start.
It’s not clear whether the Justice Department will seek to retry Mr. Menendez on all the original charges, but prosecutors filed a motion late Friday seeking to “preclude improper arguments” based on the initial trial.
“Throughout the first trial, however, the defendants invited the jury to nullify the law by making comments and arguments designed to politicize and racialize this case,” the motion said.
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