Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez gave an exclusive interview to CNN on Tuesday and explained why he and his attorney believe Cuban intelligence agents may have spread false stories accusing him of visiting underage prostitutes. Menendez’s conversation with CNN came after a Washington Post story published Monday night claimed “a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.”
“Let’s remember how this all started: nameless, faceless accusations that ultimately proved themselves to be false. And early on, there were some indications about the possibility of the Cuban government’s involvement. And so, based upon what we have seen, you know, as evidenced by the Washington Post story, in fact it is something that should be investigated by the Justice Department and other appropriate law enforcement agencies.”
Stories accusing Menendez of seeing prostitutes while travelling in the Dominican Republic with a donor first appeared on the conservative website the Daily Caller in November 2012. The stories included videotaped interviews with women who said Menendez paid them for sex acts. According to a Dominican prosecutor, a lawyer representing the women who appeared in the video subsequently said he was paid to get them to lie about Menendez. In his interview with CNN, Menendez said he found it “pretty appalling that a foreign government would be engaged in trying to affect an election and/or the position of a United States Senator.” He also explained why he thought he might have been targeted by the Cuban government.
“Well, let’s put it this way, for 22 years, between the House and the Senate, I have had a firm position in opposition to the Cuban regime that violates the human rights — the democracy of the people of Cuba. I have been outspoken in that regard,” said Menendez. “And I wouldn’t be surprised that the regime would do anything it can to stop me from being in a position that ultimately would impede their hopes of being able to get a different relationship with the United States based upon their interests, but not the interests of the Cuban people.”
The Washington Post also reported Menendez’s attorney, Stephen M. Ryan, sent a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into a possible Cuban plot to smear the senator. Both Ryan and Menendez’s office have not responded to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Menendez said he was “not free to comment” on Ryan’s letter. However, based on the Post’s story, he said the government should be the ones to address whether or not there was proof Cuban intelligence was involved in the allegations against him.
“It seems to me that, based upon what the Post’s sources are, that it’s the government that has the proof. And it seems to me that the government should ultimately internally review what its sources are, from whence they got this information, and what have they done about it,” Menendez said. “As far as I’m concerned, you know, it’s the government that should produce the information that they supposedly have within their own agencies.”
CNN also asked Menendez about the possibility he and his attorney were attempting to distract from an investigation the government is conducting into whether he used his position to benefit the business interests of Dr. Salomon Melgen, the wealthy donor he traveled to the Dominican Republic with. Menendez described that theory as “far fetched.”
“I think a credible entity like the Washington Post would actually have to have their own sources and they would have to verify their sources,” he said. “So, I think that’s a pretty far fetched idea.”
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