US Senator Bob Menendez charged with acting as unregistered agent of Egypt

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -Prosecutors pursuing a corruption case against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez on Thursday brought a new criminal charge against him that he conspired to act as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government.

The new charge was included in a revised indictment filed against the New Jersey Democrat in federal court in New York that includes four counts against Menendez. His trial on corruption charges will begin in May.

Prosecutors have said that Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for using their influence to interfere with law enforcement investigations of three New Jersey businessmen as well as aid the Egyptian government.

Egypt’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the new charge.

The senator has resisted calls for his resignation. He pleaded not guilty to the prior charges against him as have his co-defendants, his wife Nadine and businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.

The new indictment accuses Menendez, until recently the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of taking actions from 2018 to 2022 on behalf of Egyptian military and intelligence officials without registering with the U.S. Department of Justice as a foreign agent.

In a statement, Menendez said he had only ever been loyal to the United States and that the new 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.”

“Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true,” Menendez said. “It is an attempt to wear someone down and I will not succumb to this tactic.”

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, individuals must register with the department if they act as “an agent of a foreign principle.”

Prosecutors have said that co-defendant Hana arranged meetings between the senator and Egyptian officials, who pressed him to sign off on military aid. In return, the businessman put Nadine Menendez on the payroll of a company he controlled.

The new indictment said both Hana and Nadine Menendez communicated requests and directives from Egyptian officials to the senator.

“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,” Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence Lustberg, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Kanishka Singh and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker and Grant McCool)