Washington – On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez will be arraigned after being accused last week on charges that he used his position to benefit the Egyptian government and three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for bribes.
Federal prosecutors indicted the New Jersey senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, on three charges each in connection with an alleged multi-year scheme in which the senator collected gifts including hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible.
Menendez has been steadfast in his denial of guilt and in his assertion that he would be vindicated. On Monday, the senator announced that he would stand aside as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but would continue to serve as the senior senator for New Jersey.
According to the Justice Department, the three New Jersey businessmen who are also charged with bribery were able to influence Menendez because of his position as the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel. This benefited both the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people.
According to the indictment, on at least two occasions, Menendez divulged classified information from the United States government, including information about U.S. military aid to Egypt, and he exerted influence over a senior Department of Agriculture official to secure favorable treatment for a business owned by one of his co-defendants. He is also accused of trying to help two other defendants out financially in exchange for cash, furniture, gold bars, and a luxury vehicle by interfering with state and federal investigations.
According to the charging document, federal agents searched Menendez’s New Jersey home with a court order in June 2022 and found more than $480,000 in cash, some of it hidden in envelopes and clothing, as well as gold bars worth more than $100,000 and other items allegedly purchased with money stolen from the three businessmen, including a Mercedes-Benz.
On Monday, Menendez maintained that the money recovered by investigators was taken from his personal savings account and stored for “emergencies,” as has been his routine for decades. He also mentioned “the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
Menendez has been accused of accepting gifts from a wealthy Democratic contributor in return for political favors for years, and now he is being charged with bribery. The jury was deadlocked, and the trial was declared a mistrial.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker, Menendez’s fellow New Jersey senator, testified as a character witness during similar hearings about five years ago, and Booker told HuffPost in 2019 that he had seen Menendez “in the most intimate moments and didn’t see a hint of corruption.”
On Tuesday, though, Booker joined the rising chorus of Democratic senators who have demanded Menendez resign.
It’s obvious that Senator Menendez might think it’s unjust to resign, given how vehemently he maintains his innocence. Booker stated, “I think this is a mistake.” Resigning from office does not constitute an admission of guilt but rather a recognition of the high personal cost that is sometimes associated with public service. Senator Menendez is no stranger to putting service above self-interest. In this instance, he’ll need to do it once more. I think it’s better for the people Senator Menendez has dedicated his life to serving if he steps down.
Booker’s comments were followed by a wave of calls from many more of Menendez’s Democratic Senate colleagues for the senior senator to stand down after Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Senate Democrats facing challenging reelection campaigns for Menendez to quit.
Almost half of the Senate Democrats felt Menendez should resign as of Wednesday morning, but Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer advised prudence. Several House Democrats have demanded Menendez resign, and New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, has called for his “immediate resignation” as of Friday.
The term of Senator Robert Menendez, who was originally elected in 2006, will end in 2024. Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) said over the weekend that he will compete for reelection, though he has not yet said whether or not he will seek a second term.