After the first day of the trial of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez on a dozen corruption charges, MSNBC's The Beat host Ari Melber expressed a dire perspective on Wednesday evening regarding the outcome of the proceedings: The evidence “looks overwhelming.”
Melber, who also serves as the NBC News chief legal correspondent, stated that the Democratic official is facing charges ranging from bribery to promoting untrue conspiracy theories and lying about his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy ophthalmologist from Florida.
“Today,” the host noted, “a big political question put to a serious test. What counts as bribery today in America?”
After the first opening statements were made earlier that day, Melber stated: “Menendez is charged with selling his office for a lifestyle.”
“Prosecutors [are] throwing the book at him” and claim “he accepted over half a million dollars worth of private flights, free vacations and political donations from the south Florida doctor,” the host stated.
The eye doctor “received political favors from Menendez in return, including help with fraudulent Medicare patients and visas for this donor’s girlfriends.”
“That’s what prosecutors allege,” Melber added before noting:
Now the case against Menendez as a legal matter doesn’t look close, it looks overwhelming.
In fact, the only legal defense left is what you could call the “Governor Bob McDonnell defense,” which would be: “OK, I took unethical gifts, but I would have helped this donor friend of mine anyway.”
“This is what bribery looks like,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Koski said on Wednesday as the government made its case. “These two defendants corrupted one of the most powerful offices in our country. The defendants didn’t just trade money for power, they also tried to cover it up.’’
“Menendez was Salomon Melgen’s personal United States senator,” Koski added.
As NewsBusters previously reported, McDonnell -- once a rising star in GOP politics -- was convicted on federal corruption charges in 2014, and the mainstream media quickly identified him as a Republican.
McDonnell was found guilty of violating the law when he received gifts, money and loans from Jonnie R. Williams, the CEO of a Virginia-based company, in exchange for official acts seen as favorable to Williams and his business.
However, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned McDonnell's conviction, Melber reported. “They criticized his conduct but ultimately ruled that vague corruption standards would be dangerous and give prosecutors too much power.”
Nevertheless, Menendez has stated that he’s always opposed corruption and will prevail despite the charges against him:
I started my public career fighting corruption. That’s how I started. And I have always acted in accordance with the law.
And I believe when all of the facts are known, I will be vindicated.
“We don’t know what will happen and if he will be vindicated,” the host said, adding that “if a politician can take the kind of gifts that Menendez has already taken and be acquitted, then you have to wonder if there’s something wrong with all of these corruption laws in the first place.”
As if things weren’t bad enough for the New Jersey senator, several of his Democratic colleagues are avoiding making any comments about the trial.
According to an article by liberal Huffpost associate politics editor Igor Bobic, the details surrounding the trial “present an embarrassing distraction for Democrats on Capitol Hill.”
"Also on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declined to say whether he would stand by Menendez if he’s proven guilty," Bobic stated.
“Senator Menendez is issuing a spirited defense,” the Democrat from New York said. “We all believe in the presumption of innocence in this country, and Senator Menendez is fighting very hard, and we respect that greatly.”
Fellow New Jersey Senator Cory Booker actually praised his colleague as a “champion” for residents of the Garden State.
“He’s innocent until proven guilty. So he is an innocent man,” Booker said. “If he’s proven guilty, I think there’s going to be some serious appeals because I think there are some fundamental constitutional questions that I’ve never seen in a case like this.”
“Republicans, meanwhile, are eager to use the trial as a way to attack vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018,” Bobic asserted. “The Republican National Committee launched a series of online ads this week on Facebook and Twitter, urging high-profile Democrats to weigh in on the fate of Menendez.”
As the Menendez trial moves along, it will be interesting to follow Melber’s perspective on the proceedings. After all, MSNBC anchors are very rarely critical of their fellow liberals regardless of the evidence against them, “overwhelming” or not.