Senator Robert Menendez denied the allegations levied against him by the Department of Justice. Last week, a grand jury indicted the powerful Senator on bribery charges. Investigators found hundreds of thousands of dollars said to be payments to access the Senator’s influence.
Menendez, along with his wife, are accused of taking bribes to benefit three local businessmen and the Egyptian government. The indictment explains that the Senator used his position as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure Cairo received billions in military aid from Washington and approvals to purchase weapons from American arms makers.
Through Will Hana, Menendez is alleged to have passed a sensitive list of names to the Egyptian government. Additionally, he is charged with attempting to rig the justice system to benefit Juan Uribe and Fred Daibis.
On Monday, Menendez denied the allegations. “The allegations leveled against me are just that, allegations,” the Senator said. On Friday, he stepped down as head of the Foreign Relations Committee but refused to resign from Congress. “I recognize that this will be the biggest fight yet.” Menendez continued, “Not only will I be exonerated, I will still be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
In a letter sent to Democrats responding to calls to him to resign, Menendez said he was targeted because of his race. “It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat,” he wrote,
Investigators say they located over $500,000 of bribe money in the Menendez home and a safety deposit box belonging to his wife. The Senator attempted to explain away the money and claimed the prosecutors worded the indictment salaciously. “This may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years,” he said. Adding prosecutors had framed the facts to “be as salacious as possible.”
Menendez is a notorious hawk and regularly demands Washington take aggressive policies toward countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba for human rights abuses and a lack of commitment to democracy.
At the same time, Menendez could have, but failed to, block military aid and weapon sales to Egypt. Cairo is led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who swept to power in a 2014 military coup. As leader, he has imprisoned his political rivals, and Egyptian forces have committed severe human rights abuses.