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Democratic Sen. Menendez could face federal criminal charges

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez could face criminal charges later this month as a grand jury continues to consider the case, sources told NBC News’ Jonathan Dienst.

The case centers around Menendez’s relationship with a wealthy donor named Salomon Melgen. Menendez, the current ranking member on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been under investigation for accepting free trips from Melgen, according to NBC News. Officials are investigating whether Menendez improperly aided Melgen’s business interests in return.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

"Let me be very clear. Very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law," Menendez said in a brief statement Friday evening in New Jersey. "Every action that I and my office have taken for the last 23 years that I have been privileged to be in the United States Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and of this entire country."

"As we have said before, we believe all of Senator's actions have been appropriate and lawful and the facts will ultimately confirm that," said Tricia Enright, a spokesperson for Menendez. She added, "The Senator has counted Dr. Melgen as one of his closest personal friends for decades .... As has been reported, the start of this investigation is suspect. We know many false allegations have been made about this matter, allegations that were ultimately publicly discredited. We also know that the official investigation of this matter is ongoing, and therefore cannot address allegations being made anonymously."  

Menendez has weathered damning allegations before. In 2012, rumors began swirling that Menendez had solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Those allegations quickly unraveled after Dominican escorts came forward and admitted they were paid to lie.

CNN first reported Friday that the Justice Department was expected to file charges against Menendez.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Sen. Menendez is the current chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Bob Corker assumed the chairman position after Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015.