By Katelynn Richardson
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez backed Biden-appointed New Jersey U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger after believing he could be influenced in a case involving his associate, prosecutors alleged in Menendez’s indictment.
Menendez was indicted Friday on bribery charges connected to his relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, where he allegedly accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes” including cash, gold, home mortgage payments and a luxury vehicle. Prosecutors alleged Menendez used his office to recommend that President Joe Biden nominate an individual as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey that he believed “could be influenced” to disrupt the prosecution of Fred Daibes, a fundraiser for Menendez, according to the indictment.
After Sellinger, then in private practice and a candidate for a U.S. attorney role, initially told the senator in December 2020 that he may have to recuse from the Daibes’ case “as a result of a matter he had handled in private practice,” Menendez said he would not recommend his nomination, according to the indictment. Daibes had previously been charged with bank fraud, and in 2022 pled guilty to one count for making false statements about a $1.8 million bank loan. (RELATED: Bob Menendez And Wife Indicted On Bribery Offenses)
However, things changed after an advisor to the senator had a conversation with Sellinger in the spring of 2021. After the conversation, the advisor informed Menendez that Sellinger would not likely have to recuse, according to the indictment.
“I think if you call [the Candidate], you’ll be comfortable with what he says,” he texted Menendez, according to the indictment.
Menendez recommended Sellinger for nomination to the position following that conversation, per the indictment.
Menendez: “I remain focused on continuing this important work and will not be distracted by baseless allegations.”
“People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version.” pic.twitter.com/n43nfISA3v
— Max Cohen (@maxpcohen) September 22, 2023
However, after being sworn into office, Sellinger recused himself from Daibes’ case, according to the indictment. Menendez asked his advisor to question Sellinger on why this had happened, but the advisor declined.
“U.S. Attorney Sellinger was recused from the Daibes matter and all activity by the office related to that matter was handled appropriately, according to the principles of federal prosecution,” a spokesperson from the New Jersey District Attorney’s office told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Sellinger gave $40,000 to Menendez’s legal defense fund in his prior bribery case, according to the Washington Free Beacon. He also gifted Menendez $1,000 in home goods at his 2020 wedding, per the Free Beacon.
“They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented,” Menendez said in a statement. “Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version.”
Menendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.