Bob Menendez goes on fiery rant against corruption charges on Senate floor

New Jersey senator is accused of participating in bribery schemes and using his political influence to aid the Egyptian and Qatari governments

Martha McHardy
Tuesday 09 January 2024 18:39 GMT
Bob Menendez leaves Manhattan court after pleading not guilty to corruption charges

Senator Bob Menendez has accused the federal government of a smear campaign to persecute him in the public eye over the corruption charges he is facing in court.

Mr Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, is accused of participating in bribery schemes and using his political influence to aid the Egyptian and Qatari governments.

The senator was initially indicted alongside his wife in September for allegedly participating in a scheme connected to the Egyptian government, but has since faced two superseding indictments in October and earlier this month relating to a scheme involving Qatar. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Mr Menendez questioned his two most recent charges, arguing that all of the information in the superseding indictments was available to the Justice Department since the beginning of the process.

“Why did the government not proceed with all of these accusations from the beginning?” he asked. “The answer is clear to me. By filing three indictments … it allows the government to keep the sensational story in the press. It poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion.”

“The United State’s attorney’s office is engaged not in a prosecution but a persecution,” Mr Menendez added. “They seek a victory, not justice.”

Senator Bob Menendez has accused the federal government of a smear campaign to persecute him (AP)

He also claimed that “sensationalized allegations” have created rising calls for his resignation “despite my innocence, and before a single piece of evidence has even been introduced in a court of law.”

Mr Menendez, who had corruption charges against him dropped after a 2017 mistrial, was accused last autumn of being an unregistered foreign agent of Egypt and accepting gifts — including gold bars — while serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A superseding indictment filed last week, which broadens the timeline of the bribery scheme, alleges Mr Menendez accepted gifts from Fred Daibes, a co-defendant and New Jersey businessman, in exchange for his assistance in securing millions of dollars from an investment fund with ties to the Qatar government.

Mr Menendez allegedly accepted luxury watches, a gold bar and cash, in exchange for introducing Mr Daibes to a member of the Qatari royal family, who was also a principal of the Qatari Investment Company, as well as publicly making positive statements about Qatar.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Mr Menendez accepted the gifts “knowing” that Mr Daibes expected him to “induce the Qatari Investment Company to invest with Dabies” which included “taking action favorable to the Government of Qatar.”

The superseding indictment also alleges a Qatari official provided a relative of Mr Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, tickets to the 2023 Formula One Grand Prix – at the request of the New Jersey senator.

Mr Menendez and his wife have also been accused of attempting to “cover up” the bribery scheme, as well as trying to repay more than $20k worth of bribe money under the guise of loans. The couple allegedly used the money to pay for a Mercedes-Benz and home mortgage payments.

So far, Mr Menendez and the four co-defendants have pled not guilty to the charges.

In his Senate speech, he reiterated his innocence, saying: “There is no evidence of the giving or receiving of cash and gold bars.

“In fact, there has been and will be at trial a full explanation of what is the truth about those issues, a truth that proves I am entirely innocent of the charges.”

Growing emotional, he added: “After 50 years of public service, this is not how I wanted to celebrate my golden jubilee. But I have never violated the public trust. I have been a patriot for and of my country.”

Nadine Menendez with her husband in 2022 (AP)

Since the allegations arose, at least four Democrats, including Rep Andy Kim and New Jersy First Lady Tammy Murphy, have announced campaigns to unseat Mr Menendez, whose seat is up for re-election this year, while the majority of Democrats have supported calls for the Senator to resign.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters last week that Mr Menendez’s “behavior as reported in these indictments is way below the standard of a senator, and it’s deeply disappointing and disturbing to me.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has supported expelling Mr Menendez from Congress, introducing legislation late last year that would kick the New Jersy senator off his committees and deny him access to classified information.

On Tuesday, Mr Menendez said he was “alarmed” by such attempts to unseat him.

“I am, however, alarmed that the greatest and most ardent defenders of the Constitution in this body are among the most vociferous in calling for my resignation,” he said. “They would deny me due process and undermine the fundamental principle of our law that in America you are innocent until proven otherwise by a jury of your peers.

“Members of the Senate are not above the law,” he added. “They are not beneath it, either.”

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