The corruption trial of New Jersey's Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial on Thursday, after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on bribery, fraud and other charges. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The corruption trial of New Jersey's Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial on Thursday, after the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on bribery, fraud and other charges. Menendez, 63, a longtime fixture in the state's political circles who first joined the Senate in 2006, was accused of accepting private flights, campaign contributions and other bribes from a wealthy patron, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, in exchange for official favors. The hung jury was a victory for Menendez and a major setback for federal prosecutors in what was the Justice Department's first high-profile corruption trial since a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year limited its ability to bring such cases. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would seek to retry Menendez, who is running for re-election next year, and his co-defendant Melgen. In a statement, the Justice Department said it would "carefully consider next steps in this important matter." Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, immediately called for the Senate's ethics committee to investigate the allegations against Menendez. Defense attorneys said prosecutors cherry-picked gifts exchanged between close friends to suggest impropriety when none existed. A tearful Menendez thanked God, his family and the jurors outside the courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, as well as two senators who testified on his behalf as character witnesses, Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Lindsey Graham. "The way this case started was wrong," said Menendez, flanked by his grown children. "The way it was investigated was wrong. The way it was prosecuted was wrong. The way it was tried was wrong as well." The senator also made clear he is still committed to his 2018 campaign. "To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my seat: I know who you are, and I won't forget you," he said. The mistrial provides at least a temporary measure of relief for Menendez's Democratic colleagues in the closely divided Senate, where Republicans likely would have pushed for resignation or expulsion if Menendez had been convicted.