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Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted Friday for the second time in 10 years on bribery and corruption charges.
In this new case, federal authorities allege he and his wife accepted a luxury Mercedes, envelopes full of cash and multiple bars of gold in exchange for influence and favors. It’s wild. Read CNN’s report.
Menendez denies the allegations, and he has a track record of beating bribery charges. The last time the government took him to court, a jury deadlocked, a judge acquitted him of some charges and the government finally dropped that separate set of bribery charges. Menendez was able to win reelection.
He’s up for reelection again next year, and Democrats badly need to keep his New Jersey seat if they have any hope of maintaining control of the Senate.
The case, if nothing else, is a serious complication to former President Donald Trump’s often-repeated claim that he is the subject of a partisan “witch hunt.”
An unusually feisty Attorney General Merrick Garland rejected any such claim during testimony on Capitol Hill this week.
Watch Garland’s response to GOP accusations
“Our job is not to do what is politically convenient,” he said. “Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress or from anyone else about who or what to criminally investigate.”
The prosecution, again, of Menendez, which is a major headache for Democrats, could help prove this point. So should the prosecution of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in a gun case that is rarely brought as a standalone charge.
But it is worth looking at the recent history of Department of Justice prosecutions of lawmakers. Is one party targeted more than another?
Here’s a look at active and recent federal cases against federal lawmakers and governors. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is what I could find going back to 2000 in CNN’s coverage and from other news outlets.
There is one against a Republican, Rep. George Santos of New York, and one against a Democrat, Menendez.
There is also a non-prosecution to mention. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican, was informed this year by the DOJ that he would not be charged in a long-running sex trafficking probe.
These are federal cases against current or former federal lawmakers. I was able to find nine targeting Republicans and eight targeting Democrats.
Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska – Found guilty in 2022 of three felonies in a case that centered on campaign contributions.
Former Rep. TJ Cox, a Democrat from California – Still awaiting trial after his 2022 indictment, including for fraudulent campaign contributions.
Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California – Sentenced to 11 months in prison for misusing campaign funds, but later pardoned by Trump.
Former Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York – Sentenced to 26 months in prison for insider trading, but later pardoned by Trump.
Former Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Florida – Served more than two years for setting up a false charity.
Former Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican from Texas – Sentenced to 10 years in prison for multiple felonies including fraud and money laundering, but pardoned by Trump after serving part of his sentence.
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York – Sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a minor.
Former Rep. Chaka Fattah, a Democrat from Pennsylvania – Sentenced to 10 years in prison for racketeering, fraud and money laundering.
Former Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican from New York – Pleaded guilty and sentenced to eight months in prison for tax evasion. Attempted to run again for Congress.
Former Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican from Arizona – Sentenced to three years for corruption. Pardoned by Trump after he served time.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey – Acquitted by a judge and other charges dismissed after a jury deadlocked in a bribery case.
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat from Illinois – Sentenced to 30 months in prison for misusing campaign funds.
Former Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska – Conviction by jury for lying on ethics forms was later set aside over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
Former Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana – Sentenced to 13 years for corruption and soliciting bribes. There was video of him taking $100,000 from an African official. Served multiple years in prison, but many of the charges were later vacated by a judge based on a US Supreme Court decision.
Former Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican from Ohio – Sentenced to 30 months after a guilty plea for corruption tied to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a Republican from California – Sentenced to eight years in prison after a guilty plea for bribery. Later pardoned by Trump.
Former Rep. James Traficant, a Democrat from Ohio – Sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption after defending himself during trial. Was later expelled from the House.
Two Republican governors and one Democratic governor have been convicted in federal courts in recent decades:
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, was convicted for bribery and corruption. But the US Supreme Court changed the rules in corruption and bribery cases when it threw out the case against McDonnell.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, was convicted for trying to sell his power to appoint a replacement to Barack Obama’s Senate seat. His sentence was later commuted by Trump.
Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, was convicted on corruption charges after an FBI sting.
Did we miss a federal lawmaker convicted or charged? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local prosecutions – like the state or local cases against former Rep. Trey Radel, the Republican from Florida, for cocaine possession in Washington, DC, or former Sen. Larry Craig, the Republican from Idaho, for lewd behavior in the Minneapolis airport – don’t really fit here since they were not conducted by the Department of Justice.
Some notable recent DOJ prosecutions have focused on Democrats at the state level, like Andrew Gillum, the Democrat and former Tallahassee, Florida, mayor who ran for governor and lost to Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018. Gillum was recently acquitted of lying to the FBI.
Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, also a Democrat, was sentenced to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to charges related to a scheme in which local nonprofit organizations bought her self-published children’s book.
Trump likes to argue he’s the subject of a conspiratorial “witch hunt” engineered by a deep state.
Why, he will often say, was Hillary Clinton not prosecuted for her email server while he is being prosecuted for mishandling classified material?
This forgets the history of the 2016 election, which Clinton has said she lost because of then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation of her emails. Comey did not charge her before the election but did criticize her, and then, 11 days before Election Day, he said the investigation had been reopened.
These whataboutisms can go on and on without changing anyone’s mind.
This story has been updated to include additional details.