It’s Cuban Spy Day on the Hill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 8 2014 4:31 PM

It’s Cuban Spy Day on the Hill

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So did you hear this thing about Cuban spy infiltration?

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Daily Caller's response to the Menendez/Cuban intelligence/smear story: disbelief. A conspiracy like this would be, as Tucker Carlson tells Michael Calderone, "pretty convenient" for a somewhat embattled and very anti-Castro senator. And, yes, it would, though that doesn't quite debunk the truth of it. It's pretty convenient that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, though that fact has frustrated scores of birther attorneys.

But I'm being glib.* The Cuban role in this story is described, to Washington Post reporters, as relying on "evidence obtained by U.S. investigators." It's credible enough for at least two of Menendez's Republican colleagues, both of whom would like to snatch away his gavel after the midterms.

"I believe Cuban intelligence is active in American affairs," said Sen. Marco Rubio (who, like Menendez, is Cuban) when asked about the story. "Cuban intelligence's presence in Washington and the rest of America is underestimated. We've had Americans who worked at the Pentagon who are serving time for espionage. We've had professors at Florida International University. think Cuban intelligence is much more active in this country than people believe. It is in fact one of the three or four most active intelligence agencies operating in the United States today."

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The answer from Sen. John McCain was similar, if even more outraged. "If that's true, we really should get to the bottom of it," he said. "If that's true, and apparently is, then Sen. Menendez has been deeply wronged."

During the heyday of the Menendez scandal, believers—who had little else to go on—obsessed over the senator's bristling responses to questions. The Daily Caller posted audio of the senator refusing to answer questions, as a press aide snapped for the reporter to get lost. A scrum followed Menendez to a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce party where he was literally chased by reporters asking about prostitutes.

Today, Menendez is happily sitting for told-ya-sos with CNN's Dana Bash.

BASH: Now, you aren't at liberty to talk about the letter your lawyer wrote to the FBI, but you're in the proof business.
If you're probing anybody in a hearing, you would want information and proof. Do you have proof, some proof of this? 

MENDENDEZ: Look, it seems to me that based upon what the "Post's" sources are, that it's the government that has the proof, and it seems to me that the government should ultimately internally review what it's sources are from whence it got this information and what have they done about it. 

BASH: The government has, but do you all have as well? 

MENDENDEZ: The government is the one in possession according to "The Post" article. 

As far as I'm concerned, you know, it's the government that should produce the information that they supposedly have within their own agencies. 

BASH: Let me play the devil's advocate here. That is, perhaps your legal team made this information public as a diversion, as a way to sort of muck up the federal investigation of you. 

MENDENDEZ: Well, first of all, I think that you have to have I think a credible entity like "The Washington Post" would actually have to have their own sources and they would have to verify their sources so I think that's a pretty far-fetched idea.

You can see why the Daily Caller is continuing to report this out. Menendez hasn't fingered the Cuban agent behind this or anything. But as Erik Wemple points out, and the website admits, it's not exactly able to produce or bring forward its sources.

*No, really?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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