Democratic Senator Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to an alleged bribery scheme in which he used his political power to assist the Egyptian government and three New Jersey businessmen. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were arraigned in U.S. district court in Manhattan after being indicted alongside the businessmen. The Justice Department claims that Menendez and his wife engaged in a years-long plot in which they accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, among other things. However, Menendez has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and expressed confidence that he will be exonerated.
According to the indictment, Menendez used his position as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to benefit the businessmen and the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes. The FBI has opened a counterintelligence investigation into any possible wrongdoing between Menendez and Egyptian officials. Agents are also looking into whether Menendez shared sensitive, nonpublic information from the U.S. government and pressured a Department of Agriculture official to benefit one of his co-defendants. A search of Menendez’s home allegedly uncovered large amounts of cash, gold bars, and other items paid for by the businessmen.
There have been calls for Menendez’s resignation from Senate Democrats, including Senator Cory Booker, his fellow senator from New Jersey, who previously testified as a character witness during Menendez’s earlier federal trial. Booker stated that although Menendez maintains his innocence, stepping down from office is necessary due to the demands and sacrifices of public service. As of now, over half of the Senate Democratic caucus has called for Menendez’s resignation. However, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has urged caution, and Menendez has not announced whether he will seek re-election in 2024.