Federal prosecutors in New York have recently pressed fresh charges against Senator Bob Menendez, a Democratic representative from New Jersey, accusing him of violating the prohibition against members of Congress acting as agents of foreign principals.
The updated indictment asserts that Menendez “repeatedly requested the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate an investigation into another individual who allegedly failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).”
Filed in Manhattan federal court, this indictment outlines a conspiracy that unfolded between January 2018 and June 2022. It introduces four additional charges and seems to mark the first instance of a sitting member of Congress facing conspiracy charges related to a public official’s role as a foreign agent.
According to the indictment, Menendez colluded with his wife, Nadine Menendez, and a New Jersey businessman named Wael Hana to engage the senator as an agent on behalf of Egypt. The indictment even includes new photographs depicting Menendez, his wife, and Hana dining with Egyptian officials, who, according to prosecutors, were part of a “corrupt agreement” to provide the Menendez couple with substantial bribes in exchange for official actions aimed at benefiting Egypt.
The narrative unfolds as Nadine Menendez reveals her relationship with Menendez to her friend Wael Hana, and the two subsequently “arranged a series of meetings and dinners” with Egyptian officials. These meetings were intended to secure bribe payments, and Menendez was allegedly tasked with assisting in removing the blockade on U.S. military aid to Egypt.
The indictment also implicates Nadine Menendez in setting up an LLC to receive these bribe payments, quoting a message from her in which she stated, “Every time I’m a middle person for a deal I am asking to get paid, and this is my consulting company.”
Prosecutors have requested that a federal judge seize the Menendezs’ residence in Englewood Cliffs and a Mercedes-Benz convertible that the government claims was given to them as a bribe.
A statement was released by Menendez on Thursday evening maintaining his innocence:
“The government’s latest charge flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and in challenging leaders of that country, including President El-Sisi on these issues.”
“I have been, throughout my life, loyal to only one country – the United States of America, the land my family chose to live in democracy and freedom. Piling a new charge upon a new charge does not make the allegations true.”
“The facts haven’t changed only a new charge. It is an attempt to wear someone down and I will not succumb to this tactic. I again ask people who know me and my record to give me the chance to present my defense and show my innocence.”
This latest charge emerges mere weeks after Menendez and his wife were accused of accepting bribes in the form of cash, gold bars, and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen seeking to wield influence over foreign affairs with Menendez’s help. The couple has maintained their innocence and pleaded not guilty.
Senator Menendez, aged 69, has consistently maintained that his actions in assisting Egypt were within the bounds of his duties as a senator involved in foreign affairs, downplaying the allegations. Notably, authorities who searched Menendez’s home last year uncovered over $100,000 worth of gold bars and more than $480,000 in cash, much of it concealed in various locations throughout the residence.
In response to these charges, over 30 Senate Democrats, including Menendez’s home-state colleague Senator Cory Booker, have urged him to resign from his position. Despite this pressure, Menendez has remained steadfast, reiterating during a closed-door luncheon with his colleagues that he has no intention of stepping down from the Senate.
Menendez has not disclosed whether he will seek re-election in the upcoming year. However, one Democrat, New Jersey Representative Andy Kim, has already declared his candidacy in the primary. Additionally, Michigan Senator Gary Peters, the head of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, has publicly called for Menendez’s resignation, suggesting that he may not receive the traditional campaign support available to incumbents.
Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence Lustberg, stated in a statement released on Thursday:
“The new allegation that Wael Hana was part of a plot concocted over dinner to enlist Senator Menendez as an agent of the Egyptian Government is as absurd as it is false. As with the other charges in this indictment, Mr. Hana will vigorously defend against this baseless allegation.”