Powerful New Jersey Democratic senator Bob Menendez was indicted Friday on eye-popping corruption charges. According to the Justice Department, Menendez, his wife, and three businessmen were involved in a crooked scheme in which the senator received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes—including gold bars—in exchange for benefiting his associates and the Egyptian government.
Menendez's wife, Nadine Menendez, and her friend Wael Hana, an Egyptian-American businessman with "close connections" to Egyptian officials, cooked up the "corrupt agreement," according to the federal indictment. Hana had the help of New Jersey businessmen Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, who also received kickbacks from the deal, the indictment alleges.
It's the second time in 10 years that Bob Menendez has faced federal prosecution. A jury deadlocked in 2015 over different corruption charges against the senator. This time, however, the charges are even more shocking—and the potential penalties even more severe.
What Menendez Allegedly Took
Cash money: As part of the scheme, Bob and Nadine Menendez received over $480,000 in cash—"much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe"—along with "over $70,000 in Nadine Menendez's safe deposit box," according to prosecutors. Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and DNA of Daibes or his driver.
A Mercedes and home swag: Federal agents in June 2022 found the cash while executing a search warrant on the Menendezes' home and safe deposit box. They also found "home furnishings" provided by Daibes or Uribe and a Mercedes-Benz C-300 paid for by Uribe, prosecutors say.
Gold bullion: Federal agents discovered gold bars in the Menendez home worth more than $100,000, according to the indictment. The bars, which weigh one kilogram each and have the markings of the "Swiss Bank Corporation," were allegedly provided by either Hana or Daibes.
What Menendez Allegedly Did
Sold national secrets to Egypt: Menendez allegedly "provided sensitive U.S. government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt," according to the indictment. Following a 2018 meeting with Hana, Menendez requested and received sensitive, non-public information from the State Department on "the number and nationality" of employees at the U.S. embassy in Egypt, according to the indictment. He allegedly texted that information to Nadine, then his girlfriend, who forwarded it to Hana, who in turn forwarded it to an Egyptian government official.
Secretly lobbied the United States on behalf of Egypt: In May 2018, at the direction of an Egyptian official, Bob Menendez "secretly edited and ghost-wrote" a letter on behalf of Egypt meant to persuade other U.S. senators to release a hold on $300 million in aid to the country, prosecutors say. Following a meeting with an Egyptian intelligence official, the senator in spring 2019 demanded that an Agriculture Department official drop the department's objections to a "lucrative monopoly" on the certification of halal food, owned by Hana, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege that after a March 2020 meeting with an Egyptian official about a disputed dam on the Nile River, Menendez sent letters to various U.S. agencies urging action.
Meddled with the justice system: The senator on two separate occasions in 2019 attempted to strong-arm a prosecutor in the New Jersey Attorney General's Office into resolving cases in Uribe's favor, according to the indictment. In exchange for Menendez's interference in the first case, Uribe gave Nadine Menendez the Mercedes-Benz convertible, worth more than $60,000, prosecutors say. They add that while Bob Menendez was interfering in the second case, he and his wife had a celebratory dinner with Uribe and another associate.
Supported nomination of U.S. attorney he thought would go easy on his friend: Menendez in 2021 recommended the nomination of Philip Sellinger as New Jersey's U.S. attorney based on an adviser's assurance that Sellinger would not have to recuse himself from a prosecution of Daibes. According to the indictment, Menendez only wanted a U.S. attorney who would be favorable toward Daibes. In exchange, Daibes gave Menendez gold bars.
Told Egyptian official what senators would ask: In June 2021, Nadine Menendez organized a private meeting between Bob Menendez and a senior Egyptian intelligence official. On the day of the meeting, Bob Menendez provided his wife with a copy of an article on "questions that other U.S. senators" intended to ask the official in a meeting one day later. Nadine Menendez in turn provided the article to the official and wrote, "This way you can prepare your rebuttals." Two days afterward, Hana bought gold bars, two of which ended up in Menendez's house.
If convicted on all charges, Menendez and his wife could face 45 years in federal prison.
Some Democrats have already begun to turn on the senator. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy (D.) on Friday called on Menendez to resign, saying the charges "are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state." Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at the left-wing website Media Matters, said that what Menendez allegedly did comes close to "treason."