New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was indicted along with his wife, Nadine, on bribery charges by federal prosecutors on Friday.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was indicted along with his wife, Nadine, on bribery charges by federal prosecutors on Friday. Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting bribes as part of a vast corruption scheme.
- US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams accused Menendez of using his influence for profit by secretly helping the Egyptian government secure arms deals and interfere in criminal prosecutions of his political benefactors in exchange for cash, gold bars, and a luxury car.
- Menendez and his wife were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Prosecutors are also seeking a forfeiture claim against the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash and gold found at his home, along with his house (the mortgage was allegedly paid for with bribes) and a luxury Mercedes.
- Federal investigators uncovered at least $100,000 in gold bars and nearly $500,000 in cash hidden throughout Menendez’s home including in the pockets of a jacket embroidered with his name and the Senate seal during a June 2022 search.
- Nadine Menendez was given a 2019 Mercedes-Benz from two co-defendants, Jose Uribe and Wael Hana, in exchange for Menendez’s interference in the prosecution of two associates of Uribe. “You are a miracle worker who makes dreams come true,” Nadine Menendez texted Uribe after she received the car.
- Menendez is accused of pressuring the Agriculture Department help Hana secure a monopoly the certification of all halal meat imported into the US from Egypt, a lucrative contract that “disrupted the market.” Hana allegedly bribed Menendez and gave his wife a no-show job with the halal meat profits.
- Menendez also used his perch on the Foreign Relations committee to sign off on arms sales for Egypt and pass sensitive national security information to its authoritarian government. In 2018, Menendez allegedly let the Egyptians know he would approve $100 million in arms sales through intermediaries, a development greeted with a “thumbs up” emoji from an Egyptian official.
- The indictment alleges Menendez supported the appointment of Philip Sellinger as US Attorney for New Jersey under the belief that Sellinger could be pressured to go easy on real estate developer Fred Daibes, a Menendez benefactor facing bank fraud charges. In exchange, Daibes allegedly paid Menendez with envelopes stuffed with cash and more than $120,000 worth of gold bars.
- Menendez is the first US senator to be indicted twice for two different crimes. He was indicted in 2015 for allegedly using his influence to benefit an eye doctor in exchange for luxury trips, expensive gifts and campaign dollars. The case ended with a 2017 mistrial before charges were dismissed in January 2018. Menendez was first appointed to the Senate in 2006 and won reelection in 2012 and 2018.
- The senior senator from New Jersey refused to step down. “”It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere,” he said in a statement on Friday.
- Menendez was forced to step down from leading the powerful Foreign Relations panel per Democratic rules. Retiring Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin is expected to take over the committee in the interim. Cardin previously held the top Democratic spot on the committee from 2015-2018, when Menendez was forced to step aside after his first indictment. Menendez retook the post after his 2018 mistrial.
- Leading New Jersey Democrats including Gov. Phil Murphy, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, and Josh Gottheimer, former Rep. Tom Malinowski, and the state party chair quickly called for Menendez’s resignation.
- Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), and Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC) also called on Menendez to go. President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries have so far declined to join the chorus demanding Menendez quit.
- Rep. Andy Kim announced on Saturday he would challenge Menendez in the Democratic primary next year, barely one day after his indictment. “This is not something I expected to do, but I believe New Jersey deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our country’s integrity,” Kim said in a statement. “I believe it’s time we restore faith in our democracy, and that’s why I am stepping up and running for Senate.”
- Kim was the first member of Congress from New Jersey to call for Menendez to step down. “The people of New Jersey absolutely need to know the truth of what happened, and I hope the judicial system works thoroughly and quickly to bring this truth to light,” Kim told The Hill.
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said it was “very much” time for Menendez to go on Saturday. McCarthy told reporters the “very damaging” indictment “seems pretty black and white.” One Republican challenger, Christine Serrano Glassner, bestowed on Menendez the moniker of “Gold Bar Bob.”
- The New York Times examined how “Egyptian officials found an ally in Senator Robert J. Menendez of New Jersey.” The kickbacks funneled to Menendez from the Egyptian government through his wife “was a price that Egyptian officials clearly felt was worth paying” in exchange for ensuring the steady flow of approximately $1.3 billion in annual arms sales.
- The Washington Post highlighted the indictment’s “stark timeline.” According to the indictment, Menendez’s alleged corruption scheme began in Feburary 2018 – less than one month after all charges were dismissed from his first indictment.
- NBC News covered the comments from another prominent New Jerseyan, 2024 Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, the former governor. “No public official making $174,000 a year should have nearly $500,000 in cash stuffed in clothes in his house, not to mention gold bars. He should resign,” Christie posted on X about what he called the “sickening” indictment.
- National Review’s Jack Crowe wrote the indictment “must be read to be believed.” Crowe continued, “The story told by the 39-page indictment, unsealed Friday, is one of naked corruption. Far from the relatively staid world of insider trading and Biden family shell companies, this looks like down and dirty, old-school graft.”
- The New York Post reported the Menendez indictment has given New Jersey Republicans new hope that they can win a Senate race in the Garden State for the first time since 1972. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a former Democrat who joined the GOP in 2019, is considering the race.
- In an op-ed for The Hill, Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley compared Menendez’s “low-grade alleged bribery” to the infamous corruption scandal that brought down former Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, who was discovered to have “$90,000 wrapped like a po boy in his freezer.” Turley concluded, “In the end, the problem is not Menendez. It is the array of other politicians who enabled him while dismissing his reputation for corruption. To use [California Gov. Gavin] Newsom’s words, Menendez is ‘hardly unique’ for cashing in on his position. That is precisely the problem.”
© Dominic Moore, 2023