Did fake accusations that Sen. Robert Menendez had visited underage prostitutes come from Cuba's intelligence agency? That's the question the senator wants the Justice Department to look into.
In April, an attorney for Menendez, a Democrat who has been a harsh critic of the regime that runs the country his family fled in the 1950s, sent a letter asking for an inquiry into the origins of the smear campaign, according to The Washington Post.
Allegations that Menendez had patronized prostitutes cropped up in the fall of 2012, shortly before the November vote. When his office denied the charges, it said the story was meant to derail his re-election in New Jersey.
Within months, the women who made the allegations admitted the story was a lie and that they had used fake names to promote it. And now comes the new allegation that the Cuban government might have been behind the scheme.
The Post reports:
"According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media."
The plot reportedly involved creating a fake persona named "Pete Williams," who claimed that Menendez had taken part in debauched parties while visiting the Dominican Republic.
Menendez has since become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even as U.S. officials continued to investigate not only the prostitution claims and their origins but also his ties to a wealthy eye doctor in Florida who has contributed to his campaigns.
In 2013, Menendez paid $58,000 to reimburse that doctor, Salomon Melgen, for private flights to the Dominican Republic.
In March of last year, Melanio Figueroa, a Dominican man who had said he represented the women who made the accusations against Menendez, said the story was fabricated at the urging of four news organizations: The Daily Caller, CNN, Univision and Telemundo. The media outlets denied those claims — and The Daily Caller also denied Figueroa's charge that the site had paid him $5,000.