At a time when Democrats are pushing hard to fortify a case against former President Donald Trump, the party continues to find itself in much more serious trouble. On September 21, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment charging Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) with corruption and bribery charges. The charges, which also name Menendez’s wife as co-conspirator, stem from the senator’s interaction with three New Jersey businessmen involved in a scheme to pass sensitive government information to the government of Egypt. Menendez is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a post he will almost certainly lose.
For Republicans, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial contest in the state, Menendez’s indictment signals opportunity. With blood in the water, Republicans are already circling the seat which could give the party near-parity in the Senate. The New Jersey Republican Party called on Menendez to resign shortly after news broke of the indictment on federal charges.
Among the allegations in Sen. Bob Menendez' indictment:
"Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value" https://t.co/vkiwVsRVTT
— GOP (@GOP) September 22, 2023
Menendez is alleged to have used the power of his position to influence agreements with Egypt and received gold bars and other benefits as a result. Republicans seeking to oust him in 2024 called the allegations “sad, but not surprising.”
The latest charges are not the first time the senator has found himself in hot water. Shortly after becoming chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, Menendez was investigated and tried for corruption. That effort ended in a mistrial and Menendez was re-elected to the Senate in 2018.
The 2015 corruption charges stemmed from allegations that Menendez accepted gifts and luxury vacations to the Caribbean from a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for political favors. Menendez was estimated to have received around $1 million in gifts in that case which ended with a hung jury.
The latest indictment includes three charges against Menendez and his wife, Nadine. The charges include conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Menendez is accused of arranging influence and aid packages to Egypt through the Foreign Relations Committee and receiving cash, gold, and luxury vehicles from the three New Jersey businessmen, one of whom employed Nadine in a “low-or-no-show” job.
Menendez punched back, saying that the investigation against him amounts to nothing and that “forces behind the scenes” have spent the last year on a smear campaign aimed at removing him from office. Menendez has previously said that he intends to campaign for a fourth term in the Senate in 2024, but those plans may have changed following the latest legal trouble.
Menendez is due in court on September 27 to answer the charges. He is expected to enter a plea of not guilty. As part of the indictment, Federal agents have requested that the couple give up several assets, including their house which was partially funded with bribes.