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Lindsey Graham Calls for Roy Moore to Step Aside but Defends Bob Menendez

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said on Friday that if the allegations against Alabama candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore are true, he should step aside, and “should be dealt with severely.”

But Graham not only hasn’t called for Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), accused of having sex with underage prostitutes, to step aside — he also went to New Jersey on his own dime two weeks ago to testify as a character witness in Menendez’s corruption trial, telling the judge that Menendez is “very honest” and “honorable.”

The Washington Post published a story on Thursday quoting a woman named Leigh Corfman saying that when she was 14 years old, she met Roy Moore at the courthouse in Etowah County, Alabama, where he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, and that he later picked her up down the street from her house and took her to his home on two occasions. The second time, she said, he took off her clothes and touched her over her underwear, and put her hand on his underwear.

In the article, The Post also told the stories of other women who say Moore took them on dates when he was in his early 30s and they were teenagers, but above the age of consent.

Moore has categorically denied that he ever met Corfman, and says her allegations are completely false. Corfman was the only one quoted in the article who was below the age of consent at the time she alleges she had interaction with Moore — the only instance cited, in other words, that would involve a violation of law, if found to be true.

Also, all of the incidents detailed by the women in the story are from the late 1970s and early 1980s — more than 30 years ago.

Compare this to the allegations against New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, whom Graham defended in a Newark courtroom on October 26.

Menendez is on trial for corruption — the first sitting senator in a decade to be prosecuted on corruption charges. At the heart of the case is whether he accepted money and trips from his close friend, West Palm Beach ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, M.D., in exchange for using his position as a U.S. senator to help Melgen.

Related: Roy Moore: Allegations Are ‘Completely False and Misleading’ [1]

The trips include several flights on Melgen’s private plane to Melgen’s home country of the Dominican Republic, where it is alleged that Menendez had sex with prostitutes Melgen hired, some of whom where underage.

The allegations were first published in The Daily Caller, but the Department of Justice, in a court filing, later referred to “corroborating evidence” having been turned up to support the claims of underage prostitutes. The filing alleged that the prostitutes were hired to attend sex parties with Menendez and Melgen at Melgen’s villa, at a luxurious resort in the Dominican Republic called Casa de Campo.

In an email exchange posted on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Spanish-speaking female said she’d attended sex parties with Menendez and Melgen in the Dominican Republic and that Menendez “likes the youngest and newest girls.” A whistleblower also came forward to describe the parties.

In addition to referring to “corroborating evidence” of the claims, federal prosecutors also said that Menendez lied about the number of trips he’d taken with Melgen to the Dominican Republic.

“Specifically, he repeated several times that he had only flown on defendant Melgen’s private jet on three occasions. That representation is demonstrably false,” federal prosecutors wrote in the 2015 court filing.

What is often not mentioned in news stories about the Menendez corruption trial is that Dr. Melgen was convicted in Florida earlier this year of bilking Medicare out of a stunning $100 million, and that it is this money, stolen from U.S. taxpayers, that likely paid for the private plane, for Melgen’s property in the Dominican Republic, and for the underage prostitutes with whom Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez is alleged to have had sex.

Yet on October 26, Sen. Lindsey Graham went to New Jersey to defend Menendez.

CNN reported that Graham’s words in defense of Menendez were so moving that Menendez, sitting in the courtroom, teared up.

“He’s someone you can go to as a Republican to see if you can find bipartisanship,” Graham had said. “In very difficult circumstances he always keeps his word — a handshake is all you need from Bob … He’s a very honest and trustworthy senator.”

When asked by reporters, on exiting the courthouse in Newark, why he’d come, he said it was “to let the court know that of all the people I’ve dealt with in the Senate, Bob is a very honest, honorable guy.”

Graham also told reporters that he regretted that the trial had been hard on Menendez.

But he didn’t exhibit any such sympathy for fellow Southerner and fellow Republican Roy Moore, famous for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom as a county circuit court judge in the 1990s.

“If true, not only should he step aside, he should be dealt with very severely,” Graham said on Friday to a reporter with the ABC affiliate in Columbia, S.C., referring to the allegations in the Washington Post story.

“Any person who believes that these allegations are not that bad, I don’t want ’em to be part of the Republican Party,” Graham said. “All I can say is, it’ll be up to the good people of Alabama to decide what weight to give this.”

He also said if the allegations were true, Moore should be disbarred.

But the allegations against Menendez are much more serious, involving actual intercourse with girls under the age 16 — thus constituting rape.

And the allegations aren’t decades old — they involve trips that Menendez took with Melgen to the Dominican Republic in recent years.

They also involve potentially serious violations of federal laws prohibiting sex trafficking, as in some cases girls who worked at a “Gentleman’s Club” in Florida were given large sums of money by Melgen — $1,000 apiece or more — and flown to the Dominican Republic for sexual purposes.

Menendez was indicted on 14 corruption-related charges. Prosecutors say that he repaid Melgen for the trips to the Dominican Republic by making personal calls to the State Department to secure visas for three of Melgen’s “girlfriends” and that he also personally met with the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to try to quash the department’s investigation into Melgen’s Medicare-related activity. Melgen’s conviction on 67 counts of Medicare fraud was the biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history.

As of Sunday, the jury in Newark had not reached a verdict, but it’s likely that the words of Sen. Graham and also Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), who also testified in defense of Menendez and his “honorable” character, are ringing in their ears.

“The two sitting senators are the most powerful players deployed in the defense strategy of rebutting the charges by presenting Menendez as an honorable, honest person — even if those witnesses don’t have anything to say about the facts of the case,” The Washington Post wrote in a story last week.

(photo credit, homepage image: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham [2], cut out, CC BY 2.0 [3], by Jim Greenhill [4]; photo credit, article image: Lindsey Graham [5], CC BY-SA 2.0 [5], by Gage Skidmore [6])