Manhattan prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed Friday that New Jersey’s top Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, and his wife, Nadine, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to target the U.S. Influence military aid to Egypt and help halal export business.
The couple and three New Jersey businessmen were charged in connection with a four-year “corrupt relationship” involving gifts of cash, gold bars, mortgages and a Mercedes-Benz convertible.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Menendez “used his power and influence, including his leadership role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to work for the Egyptian government in a variety of ways. for profit” and “allegedly provided sensitive information.” , provided nonpublic U.S. government information to Egyptian officials.”
Menendez denied the accusations in a blistering statement on Friday, accusing “forces behind the scenes” of “repeated attempts to[ing] Suppressing my voice, digging my political grave,” and promoting an “aggressive smear campaign.”
He accused prosecutors of misrepresenting the “normal work of congressional offices” and “attacking”[ing]His wife “had a long-term friendship before I even met her.”
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer later confirmed that Menendez would resign as leader of the House’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee. Schumer said Menendez had “the right to due process and a fair trial” but “correctly decided to temporarily step down” from the committee “until the matter is resolved.”
Many of Menendez’s Democratic Senate colleagues have not commented on the indictment. But New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy called on him to resign immediately, calling the allegations “so serious” that they “impair” the senator’s ability to “effectively represent the people of our state.”
Murphy’s call was echoed by several New Jersey Democratic House members, including Mickey Sherrill and Andy King.
Menendez responded to calls for his resignation by issuing a second statement, saying: “I’m not going anywhere.”
The indictment marks the second time the influential senator has defended himself against corruption charges, after being accused in 2015 of accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from a Florida ophthalmologist in exchange for alleged medical interference. insurance billing disputes and supporting the visa applications of several of his colleagues. The defendant’s girlfriend.
The jury deadlocked and could not reach a verdict in the case, and the charges were later dropped in 2018.
“I have been wrongly accused before and because I refused to yield to the powers that be, the people of New Jersey were able to look through the smoke and mirrors and see that I was innocent,” Menendez said Friday.
In the indictment unsealed Friday, prosecutors said the senator “provided inappropriate advice to and pressured an official.” . .Granted by the Department of Agriculture to protect commercial monopolies [a co-defendant] Egypt”, involving halal food export certification.
Menendez also allegedly personally drafted a letter in 2018 that was later sent to senators by an Egyptian lobbyist, imploring them to lift a freeze on $300 million worth of military aid to Arab countries.
Prosecutors further said the New Jersey senator “promised and did use his influence and power, in violation of his official duties, to attempt to disrupt a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office into an associate of one of the co-defendants.” and prosecution”.
A raid on Menendez’s home and safe last summer uncovered the proceeds of some of the alleged bribes, including more than $480,000 in cash – “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothes, closets, etc.” and safe,” according to the indictment, more than $70,000 was found in a box belonging to Menendez’s wife.
Prosecutors said the fingerprints and DNA of one of the co-defendants were found on some of the cash.
The search also turned up two one-ounce gold bars with serial numbers matching those purchased by one of the co-defendants a year earlier, according to the indictment.
Menendez, 69, is a former mayor of Union City, New Jersey, who served on Capitol Hill for decades and served six terms in the House of Representatives before being appointed to the Senate in 2006.
He replaces Jon Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs executive who resigned from his Senate seat after being elected governor of New Jersey. Menendez was re-elected in 2012 and 2018 and is expected to run for re-election next year.
Menendez on Friday called on the public to “recall other times prosecutors have made mistakes” and “reserve judgment.”
As chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position President Joe Biden held during his time in the Senate, Menendez played a central role in crafting foreign policy legislation and confirming top State Department officials. Menendez first served as chairman of the committee from 2013 to 2015, but resigned as the committee’s most senior Democrat after the first indictment. He rejoined in 2018 after the charges were dropped.
At a press briefing on Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the White House would not comment on the allegations against Menendez or whether he should resign. She added that “discussions are ongoing” about Menendez’s “next steps” and said she would “leave that to Senate leadership” to resolve.
Additional reporting by James Politi