Senator sought to derail U.S. donations to Dom. Rep., AP reports
WASHINGTON.- U.S. Senator Robert Menendez’s communications in January with the Homeland Security Department reveal efforts to stymie U.S. donations of freight inspection equipment to Dominican Republic’s government, AP reports.
The AP said donated equipment could have jeopardized a port security contract benefiting prominent eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a close Menendez associate and fundraiser. “The emails came six months after Menendez raised concerns about the Dominican government’s port security in a Senate hearing with senior officials from the State and Commerce departments. A company run by Dr. Salomon Melgen, Menendez’s biggest political donor, has pushed to secure a lucrative port security contract with the Dominican government.”
It reports that in the emails, an unidentified staffer for Menendez told U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the Dominican government wouldn’t use any U.S.-supplied security equipment as effectively as the port’s private contractor, which the aide did not mention by name. "My boss’ concern is that the CBP equipment will be used for ulterior purpose and asks that you hold off on the delivery of any such equipment until you can discuss this matter with us," the staffer wrote.
The AP said it reviewed the content of the emails, which were first disclosed Monday by The New York Times.
The AP was told that a spokeswoman for Menendez’s office, Tricia Enright, on Monday that "our office was merely inquiring about and asking for a briefing on something that it turned out wasn’t even happening." Enright said Menendez’s office did not contact the agency to halt any equipment transfer. "A transfer was never planned in the first place, so any suggestion we stopped it makes little sense."
Separately, Menendez acknowledged last week that his office had contacted U.S. health agencies in a way that would help Melgen, whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic.