NEW: Sen. Robert Menendez says the confession shows the accusations are "false smears"
A Dominican woman says she was paid to say she had sex with the New Jersey Democrat
A video of the woman first appeared on conservative website the Daily Caller
The Daily Caller says the woman was not in the video
Sen. Robert Menendez slammed accusations that he had paid a Dominican woman for sex and expressed hope Tuesday that those behind the claims would be exposed in the wake of the woman’s notarized confession that she’d never even met the New Jersey Democrat.
“I hope that you will all vigorously go after who was the source and purpose as you did go after the story at the time,” he told reporters.
In a notarized statement filed in court, Nexis de los Santos Santana said she was filmed without her knowledge when she claimed that Menendez had paid her to have sex.
“I am the person in the video, that is me, and those are my words, but this statement is not true,” Santana said in the statement. “I never agreed to be recorded.”
In addition to criticism over accepting unreported plane flights and allegedly advocating on behalf of a business, Menendez was accused of partying with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic – accusations he said were “unsubstantiated.”
As he did when the claims first emerged, Menendez said Tuesday the claims are “false smears” lifted from right-wing blogs ahead of the election.
“Look, I don’t know more than what I have read. But I do know from the very beginning I have said that nameless, faceless, anonymous sources … from the right wing blogs took this story which was just false smears right before an election cycle, attempted to do it then, and ultimately drove it into the mainstream press,” he said. “But they were never anything other than false smears.”
The confession document was presented at a press conference Monday by lawyer Vinicio Castillo, who said Santana was recruited to make the claims against Menendez by another lawyer, Dr. Miguel Galvan.
Galvan, in a notarized confession, pins the blame on a third lawyer, who Galvan said asked him to assist in a divorce case by finding “witnesses” to claim they had sex for money with Menendez.
CNN has attempted to reach both the lawyers who allegedly recorded the escort making the claims against Menendez, but has not yet received a response.
Questions revolve around his relationship with Salomon Melgen, the Florida man who owned a plane Menendez admits having flown three times – once on official Senate business, and twice for personal reasons – to the Dominican Republic in 2010.
Melgen, his wife, Flor, and his daughter, Melissa, have been generous donors to Menendez, his fellow Democrats and related causes in recent years. Castillo is Melgen’s cousin and spokesman.
In January, Menendez paid approximately $58,500 to Melgen for the flights he took in 2010, chalking up the lapse in payment to his busy schedule.
On Tuesday, Menendez answered questions about intervening on issues on Melgen’s behalf by saying, “we raise questions all the time for a wide range of universe on public policy issues and we think that those are all legitimate.”
A law enforcement official said last week the FBI was continuing to “pursue all leads” surrounding the Menendez allegations, including the prostitution charges.
The same law enforcement source said federal agents had gone to the Dominican Republic in hopes of finding the women who claimed to have had sex with Menendez, but that the women had not yet been located.
The Daily Caller, a conservative website, originally published the video with two women claiming they had sex with Menendez for money. In an article published Tuesday, the Daily Caller said Santana was not one of the two women who were featured in the video, though Santana asserted in the notarized court document she was one of the women.
In her statement Monday, Santana said she was told she would be paid well for reading the script. Both she and Galvan requested legal protection in making their confessions.
CNN’s Adriana Hauser and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.