The Daily Caller News Foundation asked every member of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics why they haven’t yet investigated Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey after his indictment on federal corruption charges, with all of them declining to answer.

Menendez was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on Sept. 22, 2023, on charges of fraud, bribery and extortion for allegedly accepting gifts from the government of Egypt in exchange for shaping U.S. policy to favor the country as well as block the prosecution of Egyptian agents, with prosecutors later adding another charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent. However, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which is responsible for investigating misconduct by senators, has not begun a probe of Menendez’s conduct, even as his criminal proceedings are underway, with its members refusing to answer the DCNF’s questions about the matter.

“As a matter of policy, I’m going to decline to comment here,” wrote Will Baskin-Gerwitz, a spokesperson for Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, the chairman of the Select Committee on Ethics. A spokesperson for Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the ranking member of the committee, referred the DCNF to the committee, whose chief counsel, Lt. Commander Shannon Kopplin, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Watch Menendez’s remarks on his criminal charges:

Other members of the committee — Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Brian Schatz of Hawaii as well as Republican Sens. Jim Risch of Idaho and Deb Fischer of Nebraska — did not respond to the DCNF’s multiple requests for comment via their spokespersons. Neither did Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who vocally called for Menendez’s resignation and expulsion from the body, as well as the denial of his access to classified information.

“He needs to go, we should have chucked him. I don’t know why we haven’t chucked him. And I sure hope eventually we do chuck him,” Fetterman said in January.

The committee’s treatment of Menendez appears different from the way it treated Menendez on an earlier indictment in 2015 on different federal corruption charges after accepting undeclared gifts from a physician, Salomon Melgen, in exchange for using his office to advance Melgen’s interests. Menendez was tried in 2017 but not convicted due to a hung jury, leading to the charges being dropped, though the committee issued a public letter of admonition after investigating him.

That letter indicates the committee “deferred its inquiry” during the indictment and trial of Menendez. However, criminal proceedings have not previously limited congressional ethics committees from investigating their members.

The committee has a very low rate of responsiveness to complaints regarding senators’ conduct. For the 1,523 complaints sent to the committee between 2007 to 2022, no disciplinary action was taken, according to a report by Raw Story.

In 2023, the House of Representatives Ethics Committee began and concluded its investigation into now-former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York on campaign finance violations while he was under indictment for that conduct in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Santos was later expelled by the House on Dec. 1 following the committee’s report and was succeeded by former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi in a special election on Feb.13.

“Unlike the House of Representatives and every major executive branch agency, the Senate has no independent body that is dedicated to investigating ethics violations, fraud, waste, or abuse,” wrote the Campaign Legal Center in a statement about the committee’s inaction. “The Ethics Committee, while bipartisan, is still comprised of members of the Senate tasked with investigating and punishing their colleagues, on whom they rely for getting critical votes for legislation in a closely divided chamber. This system does not work.”

Following his indictment, Menendez, who was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, stepped down from that role. Dozens of Democratic senators as well as other public figures have called for Menendez’s resignation. (RELATED: Senate Democrats Who Want Bob Menendez To Resign Are Silent When Pressed On His Expulsion)

“[T]he alleged facts are so serious they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation,” wrote Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey in a statement on the day of Menendez’s indictment.

Support for Menendez among New Jersey voters has collapsed following his indictment, with just 6% supporting him for reelection in 2024. Democratic Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, who launched his campaign in response to Menendez’s indictment, is currently the frontrunner in the race.

Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Arjun Singh on February 20, 2024

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