No Credible Evidence of Cuban Plot to Smear Menendez, U.S. Officials Say

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    There is no credible evidence that Cuban government agents hatched a smear campaign to try to link U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez to an underage prostitution scandal, government officials tell NBC 4 New York. Jonathan Dienst reports. (Published Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014)

    There is no credible evidence that Cuban government agents hatched a smear campaign to try to link U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez to an underage prostitution scandal, government officials tell NBC 4 New York.

    Menendez, who is facing a federal corruption probe, said Tuesday that his lawyer wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation into whether Cuban government spies tried to smear him.

    “My lawyer did send a letter to the Department of Justice raising issues that have been since the very beginning, rumors that have come since the very beginning of the process about the Cuban government and others engaged in this process,” Menendez said.

    Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also pointed to a Washington Post story that cited a former official and a source close to Menendez raising the question that Cuban agents might have been involved.

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    Justice Department officials said they have been looking into questions about the alleged prostitute smear campaign since it surfaced.

    Two women who first claimed in an interview with a conservative website that they had paid sex with Menendez during his trips to the Dominican Republic have recanted those allegations.

    Menendez, a Democrat, has been a vocal critic of the Cuban government. And he suggested that the government may have tried to affect the outcome of his 2012 campaign.

    “If that is the case, there should be a clear investigation,” said Menendez.

    In addition to the letter by Menendez attorney Stephen M. Ryan raising concerns about possible Cuban government involvement, U.S. officials said they only have uncorroborated claims and theories at this point about who could be behind the alleged smear.

    This news comes as the Justice Department weighs whether to move forward with federal corruption charges against Menendez.

    The senator has been facing scrutiny for his relationship with a Florida eye doctor and whether he improperly tried to affect the outcome of a Medicare overbilling dispute. Investigators want to know if the senator acted in exchange for free private jet trips and campaign donations from Dr. Salomon Melgen. The senator and Melgen have denied wrongdoing.

    Investigators have said they are also looking into the senator’s relationship with two fugitive bankers from Ecuador. The FBI wants to know if the senator tried to help William and Roberto Isaias with their immigration issues in exchange for campaign donations from their relatives.

    The Isaias and Menendez deny any unlawful conduct. 

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