While he insists on maintaining his seat in Congress, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) took center stage in a press conference on Monday, responding to federal corruption charges brought forth by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. These charges allege that he accepted bribes, but Menendez offered a defense to clarify the situation.
The federal indictment, which was unsealed last Friday, accuses the senator and his wife of accepting bribes from three individuals in exchange for actions taken during his tenure as chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Department of Justice claims that these bribes were aimed at safeguarding the interests of the businessmen and benefiting Egypt.
One pressing question that arose was why Menendez had a substantial sum of $480,000 in cash at his residence when investigators executed a search warrant. According to authorities, some of the money envelopes found in the senator’s home contained the fingerprints of the people accused of providing these bribes.
In response, Menendez explained, “For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
“Now, 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 added.
While Menendez’s statement focused on the huge sum of money found in his home, there are additional allegations in the indictment, including the acceptance of gold, a luxury car, home furnishings, and mortgage payments as bribes.
The senator also failed to directly address the allegations of turning over sensitive U.S. government information to the Egyptian government. Instead, he highlighted his track record regarding Egypt during the period mentioned in the indictment.
“My record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable for its unjust detention of American citizens and others, its human rights abuses, its deepening relationship with Russia, and efforts that have eroded the independence of the nation’s judiciary among a myriad of concerns.”
The charges against Menendez are serious, including conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. If convicted, he could face up to 45 years in prison.
While the case unfolds, there have been calls for Menendez to resign, even amid his own party. In addition to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s call for his resignation, his colleagues, including Sen. John Fetterman (D-PN) and Sen. Sheriff Brown (D-OH), have also asked him to give up his seat.
Senator Menendez should resign.
He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations.
I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.
— Senator John Fetterman (@SenFettermanPA) September 23, 2023