Trenton, New Jersey—— Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday defended himself against new federal corruption charges against him, his wife and business partners, revealing he was taking the same approach he took when he faced federal charges nearly a decade ago. provocative stance.
Menendez, a three-term senator who has served at every level in New Jersey’s tumultuous political landscape, has vowed to fight the latest set of charges and has raised questions about the veracity of the indictment. question.
On Friday, he framed the indictment in political terms and vowed to continue working in the Senate, nearly the same language he used after his mistrial on federal corruption charges in 2017.
“For years, behind-the-scenes forces have repeatedly tried to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in a statement. That echoed what happened six years ago, when he addressed “those who dug my political grave.” man” and told them he would not forget who they were.
People who know Menendez say that’s a sign he won’t go without a fight for now.
“Senator Menendez has to decide what’s best for him and his family. He’s a fighter. I’ve never met anyone as strong as him,” said former Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a statement. Phone interview. “We can all say, ‘Leave.’ It’s not our decision and it’s not fair to let someone go if they feel they haven’t done anything wrong.”
Menendez, 69, has been in politics for nearly 50 years.
The son of Cuban immigrants and a lawyer, he was a school board member in Union, New Jersey, by the age of 20 (before law school) and later became the city’s mayor, where he still has a profound influence. force. root.
His own biography asserts that he hoped to fight corruption early in his political career, testify against Union City officials and develop a reputation for toughness. From there, he was elected to the state House, then the state Senate, and then to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Menendez was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2006 when the seat became vacant when current Gov. Jon Corzine became governor. He was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 and 2018. He served as chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2013 but lost that position after an earlier indictment. He regained the position after federal prosecutors did not refile charges in the case, which ended in a mistrial.
The 2018 race is noteworthy because it comes after a mistrial in 2017, and Republicans poured millions of dollars into defeating him. He won and made no hint of retirement.
“Throughout Bob Menendez’s career, people have underestimated him, and people are almost always surprised when he finally wins,” said Benjamin Dworkin, president of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy. and citizenship.
Menendez’s wife, Nadine, whom he married in 2020, was also charged in Friday’s indictment. The couple started dating in 2018 and got engaged in 2019 after meeting at an IHOP in Union City, where Menendez hangs out.
He has two children, daughter Alicia Menendez, a television news anchor and author, and son Rob Menendez, who was elected to Congress last year. Rob Menendez supported his father in a statement, saying he believed in his “integrity and values.”
In Congress, Menendez has been a strong advocate for reforming the immigration system, ensuring abortion rights and supporting key Biden administration policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2021.
Former Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said his left-leaning politics made him a good fit in New Jersey, where more than 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans are registered, which is why he maintained power an important factor. Plus, he had been in public life for decades and people knew him and supported him, she said.
But she sounded cautious about his political future.
“I think it sounds very serious. I think serious decisions will be made. I think there needs to be serious decisions made about how the party is going to handle this,” she said.
Messages seeking comment from the governor and party spokespersons were not immediately returned Friday.
When Menendez was first indicted, authorities said he used his political influence to help an ophthalmologist in Florida who gave him lavish gifts and campaign contributions.
He is accused of pressuring officials to resolve a Medicare billing dispute, to support his friend Dr. Solomon Melgen, to obtain a visa for the doctor’s girlfriend and to help protect the doctor who had to provide port screening equipment to the Dominican Republic. Contracts. He claimed innocence at the time and was not charged again in 2017 after the jury deadlocked.
A new set of accusations released on Friday allege that Menendez repeatedly took actions that benefited Egypt, despite U.S. objections. The indictment said the government’s concerns about the country’s human rights record included ghostwriting letters to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt and passing nonpublic information on military matters to Egyptian officials.
He is also accused of trying to undermine a criminal case against a businessman who advocated for the appointment of Philip R. Sellinger as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey. Prosecutors said Menendez believed he could influence Salinger and tried to use his power to intervene in a separate investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
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