The decision by U.S. District Judge William Walls was a major victory for federal prosecutors, who had warned that dismissing the charges would torpedo almost all other bribery cases and open the door wide to graft. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, leaving the Justice Department's case intact against one of the Senate's senior Democrats in the middle of a jury trial.
On Monday, Walls instead cited a federal appeals court ruling, issued after McDonnell, that upheld the stream of benefits theory in cases where gifts flow to a public official "in exchange for a pattern of official action ... on an as-needed basis".
Defense lawyers will now begin presenting their case.
Dividers a week ago had purportedly provided reason to feel ambiguous about the charges, however on Monday he said the "court presumes that a sound jury could verify that the respondents went into a renumeration understanding".
Menendez is accused of illegally accepting favors for years from a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen. In exchange, prosecutors say, he pressured government officials on Melgen's behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a contract to provide port screening equipment in the Dominican Republic.
The judge made the ruling after the defense requested that the judge dismiss the case - or at least some charges - based on a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that dramatically narrowed the definition of bribery. The government's theory of the case "captures the most egregious forms of bribery where, like here, corruption is so pervasive that it involves more than a single gift or an isolated official act and often lasts for years", they said.
"I see nothing in McDonnell that attacks the stream of benefits theory", Walls said.
In a blow to Menendez, Judge Walls accepted the government's position.
Pete Williams reported from Washington, D.C., and Brian Thompson from Newark, N.J.
But the judge on Monday ruled that the jury could determine that Menendez held the meetings because he "sought to pressure or advise" other officials to take official action, which counts as bribery under the McDonnell ruling.