New York Times’ reporter Nick Corasiniti celebrated scandal-plagued Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez on the top of the paper’s New York section Saturday: “After a Month in Court, Menendez Relishes a Trip to Washington – Senator Capitalizes On Break in His Trial.” How nice for him.
Corasaniti's latest report is notably longer (1300 words) and more prominently placed than the dutiful pieces he's previously filed on Menendez’s corruption trial for his relationship with Florida doctor Salomon Melgen. At least he's now on his toes to actually identify the Democratic senator as a Democrat in his stories, since the controversy when he bizarrely failed to do so in a Times story in early September.
The Times has been notably defensive in its scandal coverage of the long-standing travails of (for them) a local U.S. Democratic senator, criticizing his critics while suggesting it was a put-up job.
Corasaniti’s soft account of Menendez’s D.C. jaunt was as if in apology for the paper having to reluctantly cover his trial:
He sternly challenged one of President Trump’s nominees testifying in a Senate conference room. He discussed tax policy during lunch with members of the Democratic caucus. He displayed photographs of his trip to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on the Senate floor. And he serenaded a smiling Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, on his birthday.
Like a frenzied tourist eager to not miss anything, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey buzzed around the Capitol on Thursday. It was his first time back in Washington since his federal corruption trial began a month ago, and the Democratic senator was eager to cram in as much as he could.
“It’s been a packed day,” said Juan Pachon, the lone aide accompanying Mr. Menendez. He turned as he saw the senator make his way toward a stairway. Mr. Menendez is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a meeting was starting in 10 minutes. Mr. Pachon chased after him. “I haven’t even had breakfast.”
It was 2 p.m.
Instead of occupying his Senate office, Mr. Menendez has been occupying the defendant’s chair in a courtroom in Newark, where his slow-moving trial is stretching into its fifth week. He is accused of abusing his office to help his friend and co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for luxury gifts and political contributions. Both men have denied the charges.
But on Thursday, a rare confluence of Senate activity and a court recess for a Jewish holiday gave Mr. Menendez an opportunity to return to Washington, his day a flurry of activity, notable even for the usually bustling senator.
Mr. Menendez is confident of his innocence and said that he has “no doubt that upon exoneration” his poll standing will rebound, especially when voters realize the work he has done even while on trial. His numbers will rise, he said, and “we’ll be re-elected.” He declined, however, to discuss the trial.
He arrived early for a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, beaming as he entered the chamber through the center door.
He gleefully ribbed Mr. Cardin on his birthday, singing “Happy Birthday” in a deep baritone and jokingly promising that he would not reveal his age. (Mr. Cardin is 74).
An online photo caption provided further fawning: “Mr. Menendez greeted Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, before a committee meeting. Despite the charges he faces, Mr. Menendez was greeted warmly by fellow lawmakers”:
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After a long absence, Mr. Menendez, a familiar face in the Capitol since his election as a United States representative in 1993, seemed determined to prove he still had his Senate legs.
Despite the corruption charges, Mr. Booker has been steadfast in his support of Mr. Menendez, contributing to his legal defense fund, showing up for the trial’s opening statements and offering unlimited praise (“Bob Menendez never stops working for New Jersey” has become a regular refrain).
There was no mention of “conscience and country” from Booker, as there was when he broke precedent by pompously testifying against Sen. Jeff Sessions during the latter man's hearings for Attorney General:
In a politically charged era, an indictment hanging over a senator could lead to a lonely day in the Capitol. But when he wasn’t running to meetings, Mr. Menendez received warm greetings from many Senate colleagues: John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, hugged him before a floor vote....
(The Associated Press issued a similar positive report on Menendez last month.)