Only one sitting senator is currently under indictment, and as of this afternoon, the effort to prosecute him came up short.
The bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday afternoon when jurors were again deadlocked in a case that threatened to end the Democratic lawmaker's political career.Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict -- the second time in four days -- even though they reviewed evidence slowly and thoroughly, defense attorney Abbe Lowell told U.S. District Judge William Walls.
One of the 12 jurors later told the press that two of them wanted to convict the Democratic senator, while the other 10 wanted to acquit Menendez on all counts. Unable to reach an agreement, the judge said today he had "no alternative but to declare a mistrial."
Though we don't yet have a full sense of the deliberations, the New Jersey lawmaker likely benefited from the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreeing last year to make it more difficult to convict politicians on corruption charges in U.S. v. McDonnell.
Federal prosecutors have the option of trying again -- in other words, they can refile the charges and try their luck with another jury -- but given the circumstances, that seems unlikely.
So what happens now to Menendez, who's up for re-election next year? In theory, once a senator faces federal bribery charges, it's tempting to think his or her career probably won't recover, but I'd caution against assuming that in this case.
Indeed, Menendez today seemed very much like a candidate who intends to seek another term, and his odds of success aren't bad. New Jersey is a pretty blue state -- Republicans haven't won a U.S. Senate race in the Garden State since before Watergate -- and no credible GOP contenders have expressed an interest in next year's contest.
It's possible that Menendez could face a primary challenger, but New Jersey's incoming Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, has already said the senator will have his "full support" if Menendez runs again.
The senator's more immediate troubles may come on Capitol Hill, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today called for a Senate Ethics Committee examination of Menendez and the charges against him.
Watch this space.