- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez may appeal his indictment on corruption charges, based partly on his argument that some of the charges stem from routine legislative work protected by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled Friday that the New Jersey Democrat may also appeal over his defense’s argument regarding separation of powers. His lawyers argued that it would be up to the Senate, not the courts, to punish any violations over disclosure rules stemming from the allegation that Menendez didn’t include flights on his co-defendant’s plane on a Senate financial disclosure report.

Menendez is charged with accepting campaign donations and gifts in exchange for political influence. He has pleaded not guilty and argues that his actions weren’t specifically to benefit co-defendant Salomon Melgen. Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, also has pleaded not guilty.

Central to Menendez’s defense is that his actions connected to a Medicare dispute and a business deal in the Dominican Republic, which the government contends were on behalf of Melgen specifically, were routine legislative work protected by the Constitution’s speech or debate clause. That law shields elected officials from being questioned by prosecutors about legislative work.

Arguments in the case could wind their way to the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of the trial, now expected to start later next year.

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