WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to declare his innocence on charges that he used his influence to help a businessman seek an investment from the Qatari government and conspired to act as an unregistered agent for Egypt.
“I have never violated the public trust. I have been a patriot for and of my country,” the Democratic senator, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in an emotional speech.
“By filing three indictments… it allows the government to keep the sensational story in the press, it poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion,” he said.
Prosecutors filed an indictment in Manhattan federal court on Jan. 2, accusing Menendez and his wife Nadine of receiving gold and tickets to a Formula One race, in exchange for helping businessman Fred Daibes negotiate a multimillion-dollar investment for a real estate project in New Jersey.
According to the indictment, Menendez, who has represented New Jersey in the Senate since 2006, had in June 2021 introduced Daibes to a member of the Qatari royal family who ran an investment company.
Menendez pleaded not guilty in October to conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Egyptian government, and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from New Jersey businessmen to impede law enforcement probes they faced.
The senator faces conspiracy charges, including conspiring to commit bribery, honest services fraud, extortion and acting as a foreign agent.
He has denied wrongdoing and resisted calls to resign, but had to step down as chairman of the foreign relations panel after the charges were brought in September.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot)