It didn’t get as much news attention as some of the others, but Donald Trump’s worst grant of clemency was the commutation of Salomon Melgen’s sentence. Melgen was convicted of running one of the biggest Medicare-fraud schemes in U.S. history — under the protection of his personal senator, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez.
They were separately tried for bribery and corruption — their defense lawyer began his closing statement with “gifts to cultivate a friendship are not bribes” and escaped with a hung jury even after extensive testimony that Melgen plied Menendez with lavish trips on his private jet to his Dominican villa, paid for his luxury hotel rooms in Paris, and provided him a supply of young women. And Menendez — friendship cultivated — tried to get HHS to drop the Medicare-fraud investigation, and also blocked a donation of cargo-scanning equipment to the Dominicans to force them to give security business to Melgen, an eye doctor with no relevant experience.
The juror who was initially the only vote against conviction later celebrated Menendez’s 2018 reelection at his victory party.
Trump commuted Melgen’s sentence on the recommendation of . . . Bob Menendez. Really. You can’t make it up.