Montclair State Students’ Thoughts on New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez’s Trial

By Hiral Patel, Contributing Writer

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New Jersey Senator Robert “Bob” Menendez appeared in court to face charges of federal corruption on Sept. 5. According to Politico.com reporter Matt Friedman, Menendez was allegedly doing unofficial favors for his codefendant and lifelong friend, Salamon Melgen. The loyal Democrat Menendez was allegedly helping Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor from Florida, lobby his businesses by using his political influence.

The bribery scheme, which is presumed to have been taking place for over a decade, allowed Menendez to receive thousands of dollars, countless lavish gifts, vacations and obtain campaign donations.

Sen. Menendez’s trial raises concern among the public, who have expressed dislike for corrupted politicians in the past.

“It’s an example of corruption going on in the government at this very moment [among] politicians,” said Che Paul, a sophomore psychology major. Others believe that this situation isn’t indicative of corruption.

18-year-old Che Paul at Au Bon Pain, giving his opinion on Senator Menendez.                        Photo by Hiral Patel

“There is a general cynicism among the public that politicians are corrupt to some degree, but that also does a disservice to the many politicians who carry out their duties [to the best of their abilities],”  said New Jersey Statehouse Reporter Dustin Racioppi.

Kate Braunstein, a 20-year-old junior majoring in communication and media arts, had a different reaction. As a native of New Jersey, she feels that this is a terrible representation of the state.

“I think that this is shameful for the state of New Jersey,” Braunstein said. “We already have a lot of issues with Chris Christie since Bridge Gate. I think that it makes our state look extremely bad.”

Other Montclair State students also vocalized their dismay over Sen. Menendez’s scandal.

“I’m disappointed with [Sen. Menendez’s] trial, he’s the senator of our state,” said Gina Bakri, a 21-year-old senior majoring in communication and media arts.

18-year-old Rafael Santana on campus outside of the Student Center.                                               Photo by Hiral Patel

“Almost every politician now besides Sanders or Warren are all corrupt,” said sophomore political science major Rafael Santana. “The Republicans and Democrats are all controlled by money. They are no longer listening to what the people want.”

When asked what might happen to Sen. Menendez if convicted, Racioppi said it could be devastating for his career.

“Now we are at the beginning phase of the trial after two years of anticipation, and the stakes are high for Menendez,” Racioppi said. “If convicted, he could and [most] likely will be forced to resign. [This] will ruin his [political] career.”

“The chance of a conviction could mean Republican Gov. Chris Christie names his replacement. [That’s a] crucial vote for the [Republican] party in Congress.”

“His trial came at a critical time for the Democrats,” said Zsolt Nyiri, a political science professor. “If the Senator, who is a Democrat, is convicted and resigns from the Senate by early January, the person who replaces him will most likely be a Republican.”

Nyiri thinks this move will weaken the Democratic Party’s power in the Senate.

“[This] would help President Trump’s agenda since the Senate is currently very divided,” said Nyiri.

Cory Booker, a New Jersey State Senator who serves right beside Sen. Menendez, appeared in court on the first day of trial. He released a statement voicing his support for his fellow peer, saying, “the senator deserves the presumption of innocence.”

As Sen. Menendez’s trial goes forward, his fate is still unknown and leaves the Democratic Party in a difficult position.

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