CERNOBBIO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Robert "Bob" Menendez Senator for the state of New Jersey attends the 49th Edition Of 'Cernobbio Forum' Hosted By The European House-Ambrosetti on September 01, 2023 in Cernobbio, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and Wife Indicted on Bribery Charges

On Friday, September 22, 2023, the New Jersey public was stunned by the news of bribery and corruption charges against U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. The charges themselves weren’t really the source of the shock. Senator Menendez faced these very same charges of bribery and corruption back in 2015. That case ended in a mistrial two years later. Salomon Melgan, the doctor who allegedly gave Menendez gifts and political contributions in exchange for political influence, was convicted of healthcare fraud but had his sentence commuted by Donald Trump. What’s shocking about this go-around is both the mountain of evidence against Menendez (which includes solid bars of gold), as well as the people he allegedly has been helping.

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The bars of gold, the envelopes of cash, and the Mercedes Benz were purportedly given to Senator Menendez by contacts inside the Egyptian government. In addition to being the senior U.S. senator from New Jersey, Menendez is also the chair of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee which makes decisions about American international aid and intervention. The current charges against Menendez map out a very cozy relationship between the New Jersey senator and Egyptian political insiders close to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a leader widely considered to be a dictator. 

Human Rights Watch has long decried el-Sisi’s years of human rights abuse including the arrest, torture, and killing of countless journalists and dissidents. During el-Sisi’s time in office,  public protests have repeatedly ended in violence. Even children have been sentenced to jail time for speaking out against the government. Egypt is second only to China in their jailing of journalists.

So what did Egypt allegedly hope to get from Menendez via the cash, car, and bars of gold? In a word, arms. The charges against Menendez allege that he was the author of a lobbying pitch to fellow U.S. Senators to support $300 million in U.S. aid to Egypt. Menendez shared confidential information with Egypt, the case against him states. He also allegedly helped the Egyptian military secure $99 million worth of ammunition for “counter-terrorism.”

The evidence against Menendez includes envelopes of cash found in the inside pockets of a jacket embroidered with his name, totaling more than $480,000. In searching his computer, federal investigators discovered that Menendez had done two different Google searches on the value of a kilo of gold. Two months later, his wife sold two bars of gold in Manhattan.

The charges against Menendez have left the New Jersey Democrats in a bit of a tailspin. News of the chargers were initially met with silence and it was unclear how the N.J. Democrats would respond. The last time Menendez faced corruption charges, state Democrats not only vocally supported him, but they also helped pay for his legal defense. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, junior Senator Cory Booker, and unelected Democratic party boss George Norcross all donated generously to his defense fund.

This time around, the only voice of support for Menendez was that of his own son, U.S. House Representative Robert Menendez Jr., who represents New Jersey’s 8th Congressional district. State Democratic leaders including Governor Murphy and party chairman Leroy Jones have called for Menendez to step down. Astonishing many, Congressman Andy Kim announced yesterday that he will run for Menendez’s seat. Congressman Kim earned some national fame for staying behind and cleaning up the debris caused by the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot. And one other South Jersey Congressman plans to run for Menendez’s seat: Jeff Van Drew, a former Democrat who changed parties to profess his undying loyalty to Trump.

As for Menendez, he’s made it clear that he has no plans to step down. In his statement, he paints himself as a hardworking member of the Latino community who rose from humble origins. Menendez is apparently planning to speak at a press conference in Hudson County, N.J. on Monday, September 25, though no location has been announced.

(featured image: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)


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