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Justice

Bob Menendez, official portrait
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was forced to step down from his position as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after he was indicted for allegedly using his influence to benefit the government of Egypt. Photo credit: US Senate / Wikimedia

There is a major trial happening in Manhattan involving a politician facing serious charges. But it’s not what you think... and that’s a problem. Because it should be a big deal.

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There are many reasons why the trial of Bob Menendez, which begins today, should be a big deal: It’s not often that a sitting senator is indicted; the allegations levied against the New Jersey Democrat are salacious; and, on another level, it also deals a blow to the narrative that the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Joe Biden is “weaponized” to go exclusively after Republicans. Oh, and there may be gold bars as evidence. 

But it just doesn’t seem as though it is garnering a lot of attention.

That, too, has many reasons. The most important is that, as per usual, Donald Trump demands all of the media’s and the public’s attention. The former president’s trial in New York is receiving breathless coverage, even though the allegations are much less serious than those levied against Menendez.

Dozens of journalists document every one of Trump’s naps, frowns, and farts. 

In the case of Menendez, it seems much more likely that only insiders will follow the trial… and that’s a real shame. 

Because corruption and bribery at the highest level of government are a big deal.

Of course, another reason why it isn’t is that Trump has also normalized corruption. And, because they would sound like hypocrites (not that this has stopped them before), Republicans have been very quiet about this trial and the underlying accusations. 

After all, you can’t denigrate the justice system in order to protect the former president while, at the same time, pointing fingers at a colleague whose alleged offenses pale in comparison to the totality of crimes Trump has been accused of. 

Then there is Menendez himself. 

Instead of whining every day about being the target of a “witch hunt” (or claiming that senators should be immune to any kind of prosecution), he simply says that he believes his innocence will be proven in court. 

While that seems somewhat doubtful in light of the evidence and witness accounts that prosecutors will present, it’s nice to see a high-level politician act that way instead of getting his crazy supporters to storm the Capitol.

By the way, one similarity between the Republican and the Democrat on trial is the brazenness they displayed. Trump has been a crook forever and admits to his own crimes — from sexual assault to stealing classified documents. 

Menendez has been in the crosshairs of investigators for many years, and it seems crazy that he would keep following a pattern of trading favors for gifts and cash. 

All of this is very lamentable because public trust in the country’s institutions is rapidly eroding. You can’t expect Americans to have a favorable view of Congress when lawmakers are accused of the crimes that the senator is alleged to have committed. 

There is another big difference between the two trials: Menendez is already paying a price, and his political future is very much in doubt.

A recent poll showed Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) way ahead in the Democratic Senate primary, and an independent bid from Menendez would garner support in the single digits. 

That’s another stark contrast to Trump, whose hard-core supporters seem to love him even more the more crimes he is accused of.

And that should be a much bigger deal, too.



Author

  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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