A vice president of American Express’s membership rewards program testified against Sen. Bob Menendez on Monday.
On day three of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) federal corruption trial, an unexpected star was born in Andrew Thomas.
Thomas is a vice president of American Express’s membership rewards program. On Monday, he answered questions about Menendez’s account and, in so doing, laid the groundwork for the prosecutions case against the New Jersey senator:
Sen. Robert Menendez said in a 2010 email that he would reimburse his friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, for the nearly 650,000 American Express points Melgen used to purchase a three-night stay at a hotel in Paris for the senator — as soon as Menendez accumulated enough points himself.
But it would have taken Menendez about 30 years to accumulate those points at the rate he was spending then, an American Express executive testified at Menendez’s corruption trial. And three years later, when Menendez for the first time redeemed his own American Express points — more than 135,000 of them — he used them instead to purchase a high-end grill that was shipped to New Jersey, according to the witness.
Then, the next witness, a former staffer of Menendez’s, took the stand and explained the second part of Menendez and Melgen’s quid-pro-quo relationship:
The prosecution outlined emails Lopes exchanged with Menendez and state department officials that supported visa applications on behalf of a Brazilian law student and former actress, Juliana Lopes-Leite, and a Dominican woman and her sister who in the email exchanges were referred to as “friends” of Melgen. In the emails, it was clear Melgen had requested help for the women, who in Menendez’s indictment are revealed to be Melgen’s girlfriends.
Lopes said that in his role he would work on visa applications “every month or two” but not every application brought before the office. In one email with the subject: “Dr. Melgen request” that was about the Dominican woman and her sister, Lopes told Menendez “we are preparing a general letter of support from you” and asked him “ok to send, right?”
“Yes, as well as call if necessary,” Menendez responded.
At the heart of the prosecution’s case is the argument that Menendez accepted gifts in exchange for government favors. If reporting from the court room is any indication, it was a good day for the prosecution.
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