NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez headed to Puerto Rico on Thursday to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria.
At Newark Liberty International Airport, the Democrat, who is on trial for corruption, said he would take a commercial flight to Miami Thursday night. He was to then fly to Puerto Rico early Friday and return late Friday night, a spokesman said.
Menendez said an earlier trip he had attempted to arrange with other lawmakers on a plane provided by the Department of Defense had been canceled.
“I would get on a cargo plane to get to Puerto Rico, as I’m sure every other member who was going to go with me would have done,” he said.
He said the U.S. has not done enough to help residents of Puerto Rico.
“We have extraordinary resources as a country, we are the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, and it’s time we use that power on behalf of three-and-a-half million United States citizens in Puerto Rico who face a unique challenge,” he said.
Menendez is in the fourth week of a bribery trial along with Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend. They were indicted in 2015 on charges Melgen bribed Menendez with free trips on his private plane and luxury hotel stays in exchange for Menendez to lobby on behalf of Melgen’s business interests.
Under terms of his release, Menendez isn’t prohibited from traveling abroad on business if he gives prior notice.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters outside the White House Thursday that food, water and fuel shortages on the U.S. island are “the fault of the hurricane” and that “the relief effort is under control.”
Menendez said there’s no reason not to send more National Guard troops and use the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild the island’s devastated electrical system.