10/12/2017 07:15 AM EDT

By Matt Friedman (mfriedman@politico.com; @mattfriedmannj)

Could the former Republican governor of Virginia save Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez from prison?

Judge William Walls yesterday cast doubt on a key theory that federal prosecutors rely on in most of their charges against Menendez: The "stream of benefits."

Prosecutors have never shown a "smoking gun" quid pro quo between Menendez and his friend, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. Instead, they argue that Melgen plied Menendez with gifts and Menendez helped him with official actions "as opportunities arose." That is the classic "stream of benefits" theory of bribery - a theory that was totally valid ... until last year.

Walls, though seemingly sympathetic to the theory itself, yesterday indicated he was leaning towards siding with the defense that it's no longer applicable thanks to the Supreme Court's 2016 decision overturning the McDonnell case. The Supreme Court didn't explicitly say it intended to tank the theory, but Walls pointed to language that basically says as much.

That's a big development and a potential death blow to most of the government's counts against Menendez and Melgen.. Walls hasn't yet ruled. That will come next week.

Still, Menendez is not out of trouble. Though he hasn't formally ruled yet, Walls told the prosecution that the jury will decide whether Menendez knowingly and knowingly lied on his Senate financial disclosure forms by not disclosing the gifts Melgen gave him. And that's not going to be an easy charge to beat.

Read my story on it here.

WHERE'S CHRISTIE? At TCNJ for a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1pm

DAYS SINCE CHRISTIE LAST TOOK QUESTIONS FROM NJ PRESS CORPS: 6

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Cranford Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:"This ad represents the most disgraceful of campaign tactics, and with it Kim Guadagno is diving headfirst into Donald Trump's fear-mongering, division-driven playbook and is distorting the truth beyond recognition. New Jerseyans deserve a new direction forward and real leadership, and that will not be found in Kim Guadagno, who has shown with this ad a willingness to sow damaging divisions in our communities for her own political gain" - Democratic Sen. Cory Booker on Republican gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno's new ad

** A message from Pre-K Our Way: This year, NJ's legislative leaders supported the first funding for pre-k expansion in nearly a decade - for only a few thousand children. 50,000 3- and 4-year-olds are still waiting. That's not right! Let the candidates for governor know that you support pre-k expansion. Email them at https://prekourway.org/contact-2018-gov-candidates/. Email us at info@prekourway.org. Follow us on Twitter/Facebook. www.prekourway.org. **


2017

MUDFEST 2017 - "Guadagno goes on the attack as Murphy picks up Kerry endorsement,"" by POLITICO's Ryan Hutchins: "A day after a raucous general election debate that cast the race for governor in newly ideological terms, the two candidates veered in very different directions on the campaign trail Wednesday. Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, who on Tuesday said he may turn New Jersey into a 'sanctuary state' to protect some undocumented immigrants, acted as if the debate hadn't even happened. He held a town hall with veterans and accepted a glowing endorsement from former Secretary of State John Kerry. GOP nominee Kim Guadagno, desperately trying to close a double-digit gap in the polls, was on the attack again at a small press conference held a short time later. She seemed as if she had never left the debate stage in Newark, where she talked in graphic terms about crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and said she would support limited use of the death penalty ... Guadagno, who is facing an uphill race in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a wide margin, appeared to be moving beyond her single-issue talk of taxes to hit Murphy in a number of other areas. She seemed to be staking out an increasingly ideological position on the issue of immigration, and sought to inject a new sense of turmoil into the race." Read the report

MURPHY SHOULD HAVE BEEN PSYCHIC AND KNOWN THIS INFORMATION - "Murphy's a coward on Weinstein? No, Guadagno's a desperate hypocrite," by The Star-Ledger's Tom Moran : "The hottest moment in Tuesday's gubernatorial debate came when Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno unleashed on Phil Murphy over the predatory behavior of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein ... It's a serious charge. She is arguing that Murphy could have helped the women who were victimized by this reptile, and he didn't do so because he lacked the courage. Political campaigns are always rough, but that was a gut punch with brass knuckles. So, let's start with the facts. Murphy was the finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2006 to 2009, a period when Weinstein donated a total of $28,500. Murphy says he played no role in soliciting that money, and never met Weinstein during that period. Guadagno has presented no evidence to contradict that account." Read the report

LD2 - "First debate for Atlantic County state reps follow party lines; with one big twist," by The Press of Atlantic City's John DeRosier: "The forum, held at the Village Grande, featured Republican candidates Chris Brown, Brenda Taube and Vince Sera and Democrats Colin Bell, Vince Mazzeo and John Armato. Brown and Bell are running for Senate, the others for two Assembly seats. The debate followed differences along party lines when it came to school funding, property-tax relief and tax rates for millionaires in the state. But all six candidates said they would support legislation asking that Atlantic County receive 13.5 percent of the payments in lieu of property taxes from Atlantic City casinos. The proposal would give the county an extra $40 million over 10 years from the casinos and could help eliminate tax increases for country residents." Read the report

-"Murphy camp says Guadagno call for more debates is 'gimmick'" Read the report

-"Who won the 1st Guadagno-Murphy N.J. governor's race debate? The pros weigh in." Read the report

-"Phil Murphy vows to split N.J. veterans department in two" Read the report

WHAT TRENTON MADE

MORE MA RESIDENTS FORCED TO USE THE CAAS THEY PAAKED IN HAAVAD YAAD - "NJ Transit trains are no longer the least reliable in U.S., but it's close," by NJ Advance Media's Larry Higgs: "NJ Transit's trains are no longer the worst in the nation for breaking down and delaying commuters. That mark of embarrassment went to Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which had the most commuter train breakdowns in 2016, according to federal statistics released Tuesday. NJ Transit trains had been ranked the worst in 2015 for breaking down by the Federal Transit Administration, when it released it's National Transit Database last fall." Read the report

- "Union challenges NJ Transit math: 'Show us the facts' on 35 canceled trains," by NJ Advance Media's Larry Higgs: "What's in a number? Plenty when it comes to who to believe about how many NJ Transit engineers unexpectedly took off on Columbus Day, which the agency insists forced them to cancel 35 trains. An NJ Transit spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency was sticking by its number of 20 engineers who took the day off. Officials from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, however, said that only five engineers elected to take a personal day, while others accepted assignments to operate trains on their day off." Read the report

MR. CHRISTIE: LET THAT WALL FALL -"NJ Transit worried more concrete walls may crumble, this time on Montclair-Boonton line," by The Record's Curtis Tate: "NJ Transit is inspecting more concrete retaining walls along its tracks, following problems with a crumbling structure at the Summit station that shed hunks of stone onto the rails below. Steve Santoro, the agency's executive director, said Wednesday that inspectors will take a close look at the concrete walls in Newark surrounding the junction of the Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines, and near the Montclair Bay Street station. Other concrete walls may need to be inspected and repaired, he said." Read the report

YES WE NARCAN - "Christie: How these new opioid initiatives will save lives," by NJ Advance Media's Susan K. Livio: "Narcan has reversed more than 25,000 heroin and other opioid drug overdoses in New Jersey since 2014. But the nasal spray has a weak track record saving the lives of people who ingest Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. The Health Department will change a rule so emergency medical technicians will be immediately permitted to administer twice as much of the powerful opioid antidote to overcome a fentanyl overdose, which is blamed for a skyrocketing number of deaths. It's a change first responders requested when they were surveyed by the Governor's Task Force on Drug Abuse Control, said Gov. Chris Christie, announcing the group's 40 recommendations during a press conference outside his office Tuesday." Read the report

AFFORDABLE HOUSING - "Report suggests NJ commit $600 million for affordable housing - Who would pay?" by NJ 101.5's Michael Symons: "A new report from the Fund for New Jersey says the state is in a bind - with too few homes residents can afford, too many homes in aging suburbs that have lost their luster and not enough political will to address the challenge. The fifth in the Crossroads NJ series says New Jersey needs to plan better at the state and regional level, step up efforts to reduce evictions and foreclosures and put a dent in the need for hundreds of thousands of affordable homes by committing $600 million to the effort. The $600 million could come from state and federal funds. It would be spread across various efforts, the biggest of them appearing to be tax credits for developers." Read the report

THE TRUMP ERA

TRUMPCARE - "N.J. loses federal funding to expand ACA enrollment," by NJ Spotlight's Lilo Stainton: "New Jersey will lose more than 60 percent of the federal funding it expected to receive this year to help enroll vulnerable citizens in health insurance plans, a new report found, a change advocates fear will make it harder to reach those most in need of affordable care. Officials at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced more than $26 million in funding cuts in September that will impact the Affordable Care Act navigator programs in all but three states (Delaware, Kansas, and West Virginia); more than a dozen states lost at least half their funding. New Jersey saw support drop to nearly $721,000 from the roughly $1.9 million received last year, according to a detailed analysis of these cuts released Wednesday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation." Read the report

-"High-tax New Jersey is threatened by federal tax-cut proposal" Read the report

LOCAL

IT'S NOT LIKE ANYONE COULD BURN DOWN THE BOARDWALK - "Judge rules that state can cut AC Fire Department to 180 members," by The Press of Atlantic City's Nicholas Huba: "Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez ruled Wednesday state overseers will be able to cut the city's Fire Department by 15 members as a cost-saving measure. However, the cuts are not allowed until after Feb. 1, according to the ruling. 'Upon careful consideration of the facts and legal arguments, the court is of the view that the plan and timeline for immediate reductions is problematic, but it's not impermissible by the Recovery Act,' according to the 13-page ruling. 'The court will not restrict the Designee from establishing a plan to reduce the size of the ACFD from the current level of 195 to 180.'" Read the report

OH... - "Terror links unlikely, but pair had enough firepower to blast Atlantic City Boardwalk, officials say," by The Phliadephia Inquirer's Jacqueline Urgo : "It was an arsenal big enough to potentially destroy at least three blocks of the famous Boardwalk and harm an innumerable number of people, officials said Tuesday, describing what police found at a South Pennsylvania Avenue house when they arrested two people last week. Within hours of learning that the two suspects were trying to sell weapons, police arrested Danielle Demers, 37, of Atlantic City, and Nina House, 31, of Margate. A Savage .30-06 rifle with a scope, more than 300 rounds of .30-60 ammunition, and materials needed to make five pipe bombs were recovered. Demers also offered to provide instructions on how to assemble a pipe bomb, noting that the pipe "should be filled with nails" to act as shrapnel, police said at a news conference." Read the report

YEP THAT'LL DO IT - "Jackson zoning board member ousted after child porn charges," by The Asbury Park Press' Alex N. Gecan and Mike Davis: "The township council has removed Anthony Marano from his seat on the zoning board as he faces child pornography charges. Marano, 29, was ousted in a vote Tuesday night, two weeks following his dramatic, Sept. 26 arrest on charges of aggravated assault and possession and distribution of child pornography." Read the report

-"Jersey City mayor, challenger pledge to adopt 'Vision Zero' | Campaign notes" Read the report

EVERYTHING ELSE

PINELANDS - "State appellate court blocks mining operation in Pinelands," by NJ Spotlight's Tom Johnson: "A state appeals court yesterday upheld a decision by the Pinelands Commission to block approval of a mining operation in Jackson Township by a local planning board. In a 12-page ruling, the court found the commission's rejection of the project was justified because it failed to conform with the agency's Comprehensive Management Plan, which does not permit mining operations in parts of the Pinelands designated as 'forest areas.' Read the report"

THIS IS ONLY BECAUSE OF NJ'S SKY HIGH COST OF CANDY - "N.J. is No. 3 state for trick-or-treating, according to candy analysis," by NJ Advance Media's Amy Kuperinsky: "Local trick-or-treating should figure among the best in the country this Halloween, according to an analysis of candy purchases from Ibotta, an app that reads shopping receipts. New Jersey ranks No. 3 in the country in spending on candy in the week before Halloween, Ibotta says in its report, published Tuesday, which references data taken from 150,000 receipts containing candy purchases made during the the week before Halloween in 2015 and 2016. While the national average for candy spending for the same period was $16.45 per person, New Jerseyans spent $24.36." Read the report

-"Mt. Olive woman killed in terror attack lives on in lecture series" Read the report

-"Meet the 2 N.J. residents awarded $625K MacArthur 'genius grants'" Read the report

-"Dozens of black bears killed so far in New Jersey hunt" Read the report

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** A message from Pre-K Our Way: New Jersey has one of the best public preschool programs in the country. Since 2008, it has been in only 35 school districts. This year, New Jersey's legislative leaders supported the first funding for pre-k expansion in nearly a decade - for only a few thousand more children. 50,000 3- and 3-year-olds are still waiting. That's not right!

Expanding New Jersey's pre-k is a bipartisan priority for parents and communities. Business, health care, law enforcement and media leaders know that NJ's pre-k supports working parents, encourages a child's future health, delivers educational achievement - and promotes successful lives. Make pre-k expansion a priority for our next governor! Let the candidates for governor know that you support pre-k expansion.

Here's what you can do:

CONTACT THE CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR - Email a candidate - or candidates, at https://prekourway.org/contact-2018-gov-candidates/

VISIT OUR WEBSITE OR CONTACT US - For more information, email us at info@prekourway.org, or call us at 609-246-0034 ext 2. Visit prekourway.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. **

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