On the day before he left the White House, President Donald Trump issued a commutation of sentence to Florida-based eye doctor Salomon Melgen among 142 others receiving commutations and pardons, according to Forbes.
A close friend and associate of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and co-conspirator in Menendez’s corruption trial, which ultimately hung a jury, Melgen got jammed up after orchestrating a Medicare fraud scheme.
As Menendez prepares to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Trump on his way out of the White House cut short Melgen’s 17-year prison sentence, while also pardoning former strategist Steve Bannon, former Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore, and Lil Wayne, who praised Trump in an October tweet, securing a full pardon for the gun charges he pleaded guilty to last month, saving him from up to 10 years in federal prison – and many others.
A jury failed to convict Menendez and Melgen on bribery charges for nearly $1 million in political contributions and gifts the senator received from Melgen, allegedly in exchange for official action by the Democratic senator, stemming from a 2015 federal case. “But the Senate Ethics Committee admonished Menendez, demanding, without going into specifics, that he amend his financial disclosure reports to reflect the gifts and pay them back.”
In 2018, “I think the Ethics Committee was unaware that there were a series of payments that were made before they continued their review,” Menendez said at an unrelated press conference in Bergen County, according to Politico. “Remember, [the ethics complaint] was filed in 2012 by Republicans here in New Jersey, and I think they’re unaware. We are making them aware.”
From that report:
Amid media scrutiny in 2013 and after the ethics complaint was filed by a Republican state lawmaker in New Jersey, Menendez reimbursed Melgen $58,500 for two flights on the doctor’s private jet. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also reimbursed Melgen almost $15,000 for a third flight.
At his 2018 sentencing, Melgen never directly apologized or accepted responsibility during his one-minute statement to U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, according to the Associated Press.
From that report:
“The Harvard-trained doctor would only admit he ‘made mistakes’ while saying he always tried to help his patients, even those other doctors had given up on.
“The 63-year-old Dominican native conceded he ‘lost my way’ in his personal life, possibly alluding to the mistresses he had taken. He also faces a possible retrial in New Jersey on separate charges that he bribed Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.
“Melgen was convicted in April on 67 counts of Medicare fraud that prosecutors say exceeded $100 million. They want a 30-year sentence, although Marra could give Melgen a life term. Melgen’s attorneys asked Marra for a short but unspecified sentence, saying he is in poor health. At his age, they say, a sentence of any significant length would likely be a life sentence, which they don’t think he deserves. They have argued that prosecutors only proved he stole $64,000.
“Wearing blue jail overalls over a gray sweat shirt, his legs shackled, Melgen shuffled to the courtroom podium to make his first comments about the case. Reading his statement in a clear but halting voice, he said he he hoped the judge would “see the full picture of who I am” and believe the dozens of patients who spoke in court or wrote on his behalf.
“‘I know I made mistakes, but it was always my intent to help my patients,’ he told Marra. ‘I was trained to not give up and do everything I could to help.’ He then asked the judge for mercy. Marra will impose a sentence later.”
This week, Roll Call reported that Menendez wants to rebuild the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with more of an emphasis on bipartisanship.
“Even as a bipartisan majority of committee members generally support Biden’s foreign policy priorities of regaining the trust of longtime allies, which was badly damaged by President Donald Trump, and reasserting U.S. leadership on the global stage including in providing COVID-19 vaccine access around the globe, deep divisions remain that may be difficult to overcome.
“For one thing, some of Trump’s biggest supporters are committee members. They include Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a co-leader of the Republican group of senators who voted to overturn the results of last November’s elections; Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the outgoing head of the Homeland Security Committee who outraged Democrats last year by using that platform to promote conspiracy theories about Biden, his son Hunter and the security of the 2020 election; and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, perhaps Trump’s closest confidant and adviser in the Senate.”