U.S. prosecutors on Friday charged powerful Senator Robert Menendez and his wife with bribery over their relationship with New Jersey businessmen, which could complicate Democrats’ efforts to keep their slim majority in the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan accused the defendants of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using Menendez’s power and influence as New Jersey’s senior senator to seek to protect and enrich the businessmen, and benefit the government of Egypt.
Menendez, the chair of the influential U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been an important ally to fellow Democrat President Joe Biden as he has sought to reassert U.S. influence on the world stage as Biden rallies support for congressional aid to Ukraine and Washington looks for ways to push back against a rising China.
The indictment contained an image of gold bars that investigators seized from Menendez’s home, as well as envelopes stuffed with cash found inside jackets bearing Menendez’s name and hanging in his closet. Prosecutors said they found more than $480,000 in cash in his home.
Prosecutors said that in addition to cash and gold, the bribes also included payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a job with minimal requirements and a luxury vehicle.
“This investigation is very much ongoing,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, said at a press conference. “We are not done. And I want to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to come forward quickly.”
The senator’s office and a lawyer who has represented Nadine Menendez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The investigation marks the third time Menendez has been investigated by federal prosecutors but he has never been convicted.
Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez, who has been married to the senator since 2020, face three criminal counts each: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
Menendez has said he plans to seek reelection next year, and an investigation could complicate Democrats’ effort to expand their slim 51-49 seat majority in the 100-member Senate.
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