US Senator Bob Menendez conspired to act as a foreign agent of Egypt, federal prosecutors said in a revised indictment that added a new count to earlier bribery charges against the New Jersey Democrat.
(Bloomberg) — US Senator Bob Menendez conspired to act as a foreign agent of Egypt, federal prosecutors said in a revised indictment that added a new count to earlier bribery charges against the New Jersey Democrat.
Menendez, his wife Nadine and Egyptian American businessman Wael Hana were charged with the foreign agent count on Thursday in Manhattan federal court. The charge is based on allegations in the original indictment last month that Menendez, 69, abused his authority as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to help Egypt, including giving Egyptian officials “highly sensitive” information about personnel at the US embassy in Cairo.
The new indictment also included the earlier corruption charges against Menendez, who was accused of accepting as bribes hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars and a Mercedes convertible.
The new charge increases political pressure on Menendez, who already faces calls to resign from dozens of Democratic senators.
Menendez, who has temporarily resigned his chairmanship, has vowed to beat the case. He said Thursday he’s loyal only to the US.
“Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true,” Menendez said in a statement. “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.”
A lawyer for Nadine Menendez said she denies all the charges.
Read More: Menendez, His Wife and the Alleged Plot to Help Their Friends
Menendez, his wife and Hana pleaded not guilty to the corruption charges at a Sept. 27 hearing. Two New Jersey businessmen, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, also pleaded not guilty to conspiring to bribe Menendez in separate schemes. The defendants each face as many as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, though they would likely get far less time.
Menendez was charged Thursday under a law closely related to one he’s resisted strengthening. As chair of the foreign relations committee, Menendez has had significant sway over various legislative efforts in recent years to update the 1938 foreign lobbying disclosure statute. In December 2020, Menendez spoke on the Senate floor to block an expedited vote on a measure which would have boosted compliance enforcement. He urged his colleagues to take a step back and more thoroughly examine the bill.
Read More: Menendez Case Raises Questions for US Attorney Who Resisted Him
Prosecutors say Menendez secretly wrote a letter that Egypt sent to his colleagues, urging them to lift a hold on $300 million in US aid, and had his wife tell Hana that he would approve a $99 million arms sale to the Middle Eastern nation. Menendez also allegedly pressed a US Department of Agriculture official to protect the exclusive right Egypt gave to Hana’s company, EG Halal Certified Inc., to certify US food exports as compliant with halal standards.
Lawrence S. Lustberg, a lawyer for Hana, said the revised indictment had no merit.
“The new allegation that Wael Hana was part of a plot” to enlist Menendez as an agent of the Egyptian government “is as absurd as it is false,” Lustberg said in a statement.
Not all of the original bribery case had to do with Egypt. Prosecutors allege Menendez pressured officials in the New Jersey attorney general’s office to disrupt a criminal investigation of an associate of Uribe, who works in the trucking and insurance business. In exchange, Uribe gave Nadine Menendez $15,000 in cash for a down payment on a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible and made monthly payments for three years, the US said.
Since the original indictment, The Record of New Jersey and the New York Times reported that Nadine Menendez was driving a Mercedes in December 2018 when she fatally struck a pedestrian in Bogota, New Jersey. She was released without a summons or a sobriety test, and police determined she wasn’t at fault, police records obtained by Bloomberg show. The Times has reported that the attorney general is now investigating the accident.
The accident is referred to in the indictment, which said it left her without a car. In the weeks that followed, she was in regular contact with Uribe about getting a new car. When she succeeded, prosecutors said, she messaged Menendez: “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes,” adding a heart emoji.
Menendez has faced corruption allegations before. He went to trial in 2017 on charges that he took gifts of private jet travel, a Paris vacation and campaign contributions in exchange for pushing a Florida doctor’s business interests within the US government. A judge declared a mistrial after the jury deadlocked.
The Justice Department says the alleged bribery conspiracy began in January 2018, around the time prosecutors dropped the previous case.
The case is US v. Menendez, 23-cr-490, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
–With assistance from Benjamin Penn.
(Updates with Menendez statement in sixth paragraph)
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