Sen. Bob Menendez declared on Monday that he did nothing wrong and that he plans to remain in office in the wake of a federal indictment on corruption and bribery charges.
The Democrat from New Jersey insisted in his first public comments following the indictment that “prosecutors get it wrong sometimes,” and that “when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be the New Jersey senior senator.”
The senator also attempted to defend himself against some of the evidence presented by prosecutors in his indictment. Menendez claimed that envelopes of cash investigators found stuffed into clothing at his home were nothing more than an emergency savings fund. “For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” he said.
Menendez, his wife Nadine, and three New Jersey businessmen were charged with “participating in a years-long bribery scheme,” on Friday by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Authorities allege that the couple “accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from [Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes] in exchange for Menendez’s agreement to use his official position to protect and enrich them and to benefit the Government of Egypt.”
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck (D-N.Y.) announced that Menendez had “decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”
Schumer also provided a tepid defense for the senator, writing that “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”
However, not all the members of the upper chamber feel that Menedez should remain in office. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) called for Menendez’s resignation on Saturday, writing that while his colleague is entitled to the presumption of innocence “he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations.”
The charges include allegations that Menendez sought to use his position as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to benefit Hana and influence government policy to favor requests from the government of Egypt. Prosecutors allege that Menendez “took actions to benefit the Government of Egypt and Hana, including by improperly pressuring an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (‘USDA’) to seek to protect a business monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt,” as well as providing “sensitive, non-public U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise [taking] steps to secretly aid the Government of Egypt.”
And the accusations of Menendez’s abuse of his position in Congress are just the tip of the iceberg in the alleged scheme of corruption and bribery.
Among the alleged bribes accepted by Menendez and his wife are reams of cash, solid bars of gold, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible. The indictment includes photos of envelopes of cash that had been stuffed into the pockets of a jacket bearing Menendez’s name and the Senate logo. A search by federal agents of the senator’s home and safe deposit box found “Over $480,000 in cash—much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe—was discovered in the home, along with over $70,000 in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box.”
The search also uncovered a stash of gold bars worth “over one hundred thousand dollars.” According to a review of the senator’s electronic communications, Menendez had searched “how much is one kilo of gold worth,” online the day after being picked up from the airport by a driver for one of the businessmen.