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Senator Menendez wants probe of alleged Cuban smear plot: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has asked the Justice Department to investigate evidence said to be acquired by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government plotted to smear him with allegations he was involved with prostitutes, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Citing people familiar with the situation, the Post said Menendez's lawyer wrote in a letter to the Justice Department in April that the alleged plot was designed to derail Menendez's political career as he was seeking re-election in 2012.

Menendez, who is of Cuban descent and is now chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a critic of Cuba's communist government.

The newspaper quoted a former U.S. official with knowledge of government intelligence as saying the CIA obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, that linked Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.

The allegations about Menendez surfaced days before the November 2012 election.

The reports, first published on the conservative Daily Caller website, said a political donor provided Menendez with free trips on his private plane to the Dominican Republic where Menendez allegedly engaged in sex with underage prostitutes.

Menendez denied the allegations. The Post, quoting two people familiar with the case, reported that an FBI investigation turned up no evidence tying Menendez to prostitutes.

Menendez's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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