Authorities revealed on Friday that New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez had been charged with federal corruption for the second time in his senate tenure. Menendez, his wife, and three other people are charged with participating in a bribery conspiracy in which Menendez reportedly accepted pricey gifts in exchange for favors and power.
Menendez, who was acquitted in a mistrial on federal bribery allegations in 2017, was charged with a new offense at a press conference given by federal prosecutors at 11 a.m. Among the many accusations, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Menendez “took steps to secretly aid the government of Egypt” and misused his authority as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by giving nonpublic material to Egyptian officials. The senator has been accused with conspiring to bribe, defrauding honest services, and extorting people while acting in his official capacity for his part in the plan.
The most startling charges from the indictment are included below, along with an analysis of what they might signify for New Jersey’s most prominent politician.
Menendez and his wife took gold bars and large sums of money.
The indictment claims that during the FBI raid on the Menendez home in 2022, they discovered over $480,000 in cash hidden in clothing, closets, a safe, and a blazer with his name on it from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:
Additionally, inside their home, police discovered gold bars worth more than $100,000:
On one of the transactions, Menendez’s wife allegedly received a Mercedes-Benz.
Two co-defendants in the case, Jose Uribe and Wael Hana, purportedly paid a bribe by purchasing a Mercedes-Benz convertible for Menendez’s wife in 2019. In return, Menendez agreed to obstruct an insurance fraud investigation of a family member who worked for Uribe as well as a state criminal prosecution of one of his associates. After dinner in January 2019, according to the prosecution, Uribe and Hana passed information about their pals to Menendez through his wife. Menendez then allegedly used this information to pressure a New Jersey official into imposing a “non-incarceratory” punishment on the fraud suspect.
As the sale for the car was closing, Nadine Menendez texted Uribe, “You are a miracle worker who makes dreams come true.” “I’ll never forget that,” Menendez took the official looking into Uribe’s relative into his Senate office, where he persuaded them to drop the case after Uribe paid the $15,000 down payment and obtained funding for the monthly payments. Days later, Uribe and the Menendez couple met again for what the prosecution described as a celebratory supper.
In exchange for a no-show job, Menendez allegedly pushed to relax limitations on $300 million in military aid to Egypt.
In exchange for the promise of a no-show employment for his wife, Menendez allegedly assisted one of his co-conspirators, Egyptian businessman Wael Hana, in obtaining military money for Egypt. The chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations is accused by the prosecution of “providing sensitive U.S. Government information and taking other actions that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.”
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Hana texted an anonymous Egyptian official in May 2018 after a meal with Menendez, reporting that a “ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted.” Later that month, a senator’s request to support aid for Egypt was amended when Menendez’s wife received it from an Egyptian official. The letter, which requested that $300 million in aid be unfrozen on behalf of the Egyptian government, was then ghostwritten by Menendez and forwarded to his wife using his personal email account. The email was then given to Hana by his wife, who then emailed it back to him with the suggestion that he actually wrote it. The emails were later deleted by Menendez and his wife.
How much does a kilogram of gold cost?
According to the prosecution, Menendez campaigned for Philip Sellinger to be nominated as the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey because he thought he could use Sellinger as leverage to stop a prosecution of one of his co-defendants, Fred Daibes. Menendez brought up the fraud allegations against Daibes in a meeting in 2021 and expressed his hope that, if chosen, Sellinger would give the issue another look. At JFK airport in October 2021, Menendez and his wife were met by a vehicle for Daibes and driven back to New Jersey. The following day, Menendez conducted an intriguing internet search, asking, “How much is one kilo of gold worth?”
How will the charges against Menendez impact his political future?
There will be enormous pressure on Menendez to resign his seat before the 2024 election because he already has a Democratic primary opponent and a potential Republican general-election rival. If he did step down, Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, would name a replacement who would hold office until at least January 2025. Given New Jersey’s blue leanings, a generic Democrat would be a strong favorite to keep the seat in the upcoming election. (During his 2018 reelection, Menendez, who had previously been marred by scandal, was briefly considered to be vulnerable; however, he defeated his Republican opponent by a margin of more than 11 points.)