- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez renewed his attack on federal corruption charges against him in a court filing Monday, claiming that a federal judge’s ruling misinterpreted the laws governing the conduct of elected officials.

Attorneys for the Democrat filed papers in federal appeals court in Philadelphia that seek to overturn a judge’s decision in September that upheld most of the counts in an indictment unsealed last spring against Menendez and a wealthy campaign donor.

The indictment charges Menendez with taking campaign donations and gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in exchange for helping Melgen in a Medicare dispute and with a business interest in the Dominican Republic. Both have pleaded not guilty.

In Monday’s filing, Menendez argued the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause protects Congressmen from being prosecuted for legislative acts such as meeting with federal officials, and that the judge’s ruling in September misapplied the law.

Menendez has contended he was seeking to influence future policy instead of advocating on behalf of his friend, and that the government is attempting to use the timing of campaign donations to create a quid pro quo between him and Melgen that he claims never existed.

The judge applied “an erroneous legal framework,” the filing claims. “The district court wrongly adopted a categorical rule that all efforts to influence the Executive Branch are unprotected, regardless of whether the object was to influence policy or individual case work.”

Monday’s brief also argued that a count in the indictment for allegedly making false statements on a Senate disclosure form should be dismissed because it is a Senate matter governed by Senate rules.

The government has until the end of the month to file its response to Menendez’s brief.

Oral arguments in front of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for the end of February.

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