While Republicans make a symbolic point of permitting smoking in the Capitol complex whenever they’re in power, no one’s lungs really seem to have been in it since John Boehner held the speakership. Back rooms in Washington aren’t what they used to be.
So it’s nice that the oddly named Morton’s The Steakhouse — which as a Chicago-based chain is now really Morton’s The 65 Domestic and International Steakhouses — is one place where Washington’s journalists and politicians can still enjoy the complex aromas of cigars, steak and corruption.
One person whom it’s almost unavoidable to see at Morton’s is the recently deposed chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator
Bob Menendez. Between 2003 and 2021, Menendez spent $298,000 at the steakhouse and cigar terrace. (And that’s just what he billed to his campaign and PAC.)
Menendez is also under federal indictment for an alleged bribery scheme involving a halal meat inspection company, Egyptian spies, half a million dollars in cash and his wife Nadine’s Mercedes convertible. “Later that evening, the same participants… met at a steakhouse in Washington, DC, for dinner,” the latest indictment says. “During which dinner there was discussion of various matters of foreign policy, and Nadine Menendez stated, ‘what else can the love of my life do for you?’”
We can’t be sure that the steakhouse in question was Morton’s, but I can think of worse places to spend a gold bar or two. “It’s no secret that Senator Menendez likes going to Morton’s, where he and/or I, as his chief political advisor, have routinely hosted political and fundraising lunches and dinners,” his chief of staff Fred Turner said.
Since moving to DC, I’ve been downwind of senators from both sides of the aisle, Trump appointees and journalists from the Atlantic and National Review puffing away overlooking Connecticut Avenue, occupying a second floor with a terrace.
“Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner,” a spokesman for the chain said after protesters tried to heckle Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh at Morton’s last year. Kavanaugh apparently did not even see or hear the protesters. Now that’s service.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s December 2023 World edition.