Robert Menendez Personally Lobbied for Visas, Former Aide Testifies

As part of its argument, the prosecution introduced into evidence one of Mr. Lopes’s weekly reports, sent every Friday to the senator, which included a section titled “Melgen Visa Inquiry,” alongside sections dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Cuba.

Mr. Lopes testified that as a senior adviser he dealt with visa requests sent to Mr. Menendez, sometimes as often as once per month.

But in this case, Mr. Menendez involved himself personally. In the case of the woman from Brazil, Juliana Lopes-Leite, Mr. Menendez sent a letter to someone he knew at the State Department, who agreed to a second interview that resulted in a visa being granted.

For the two sisters from the Dominican Republic, Rosiell and Korall Polanco, Mr. Lopes testified, a letter from Mr. Menendez wasn’t enough for the official at the United States consulate in the Dominican Republic conducting their interview. The interviewer told the sisters that the letter from Mr. Menendez “does me no good.”

Learning of their rejection, Mr. Lopes wrote an email to Mr. Menendez.

“Would you rather wait for the outcome of the follow up letter or call the ambo ASAP?” he wrote, using the shorthand for “ambassador.”

“Call ambassador ASAP,” Mr. Menendez replied.

The prosecution asked if it was an unusual step to reach out to an ambassador about a visa inquiry.

“Only if a United States senator advocates on their behalf,” he replied. “It was not uncommon for Senator Menendez to advocate forcefully.”

The defense argued that Mr. Menendez regularly involved himself in visa applications. They cited a case in 2008 involving a family from Colombia who were also initially denied a visa to travel to the United States and showed a letter written from Mr. Menendez to the ambassador advocating on their behalf.

Raymond Brown, one of Mr. Menendez’s lawyers, also sought to dispel any notion that Mr. Menendez’s advocacy of visas, whether for Mr. Melgen’s friends or anyone else, was an abuse of power.

“The language ‘careful consideration,’” Mr. Brown said, quoting words used by Mr. Menendez in the letters he wrote on behalf of both Mr. Melgen’s friends and the Colombian family’s visa applications. “Is that secret code for let her in, or is that exactly what he meant?”

Mr. Lopes answered that it was standard language as part of his advocacy in visa issues.

Throughout Monday’s proceedings, the jury was routinely dismissed as Judge…

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