THE MENENDEZ TRIAL: State Department Official Broached Port Security Contract to Dominican Republic Prez

Menendez

NEWARK – Under pressure from Sen. Bob Menendez to deliver a “suitable way ahead” for a port security contract held by the senator’s friend Dr. Salomon Melgen, a US Assistant Secretary of State raised the issue in a face-to-face meeting with the president of the Dominican Republic, jurors in the federal corruption trial of Menendez and Melgen heard this morning.

The trip to the Dominican Republic was scheduled after a meeting between Menendez and Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William R. Brownfield, Brownfield’s subordinate Mark Wells testified. After the May 2012 meeting with the senator, Brownfield informed his staff they had until July 1 to present a good course forward for Melgen, or Menendez would call hearings on Caribbean port security, Wells said.

Brownfield traveled to the Dominican Republic in October 2012, adding a leg to a trip to Colombia. It was a prime audience for expressing concern over ICCSI, the company Melgen had a 50% stake in and which had an exclusive contract to screen cargo containers at the Caribbean nation’s ports.

 
“I recall the subject of the port security contract being raised, ” said Wells, who federal prosecutors called as a witness this morning.
 
Brownfield’s trip to the Dominican Republic was not on his schedule prior to the meeting with Menendez, Wells testified. Melgen was concerned the US State Department was donating X-ray scanners to the Dominican Republic and the island nation’s government had not fulfilled ICCSI’s contract for years, State and Commerce officials testified yesterday.
 
At the time of the dispute, Menendez was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and the chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee.
 
The New York Times reported in 2013 that Melgen’s port security contract was likely worth $500 million over a 20 year period.
 
Menendez’s defense attorney Abbe Lowell tried to downplay how unique the meeting was by introducing into evidence a memo memorializing a similar talk between Menendez and Brownfield the year before.
 
Lowell found himself in the headlines outside the courtroom today, as an email prankster made Lowell believed he was talking to client Jared Kushner in messages published by Business Insider.  In the emails, Lowell told the fake Kushner he needed to see emails from Kushner’s private server before any were deleted. Lowell has had no comment on the incident, or much else, today and since the trial began.
 
The parade of North Jersey Democrats supporting the senior senator at his trial continued this morning. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto spent about two hours in the gallery on the defendants’ side listening to testimony.

 

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