Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to an alleged bribery scheme involving the senator using his political power to benefit the Egyptian government and three New Jersey businessmen. The Justice Department claims that Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bars, and a luxury car in exchange for political favors. Menendez denies any wrongdoing and believes that he will be exonerated. He has stepped down as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but has pledged to remain in his role as the senior senator representing New Jersey.
The FBI has opened a counterintelligence investigation into the case, looking into possible wrongdoing between Menendez and Egyptian officials or contacts. The indictment alleges that Menendez shared sensitive, nonpublic information from the U.S. government and pressured a high-ranking official with the Department of Agriculture to benefit one of his co-defendant’s companies. Federal agents conducted a search of Menendez’s home in 2022 and found cash, gold bars, and other items allegedly paid for by the three businessmen. This is not the first time Menendez has faced federal charges; in a previous case, he was accused of accepting gifts from a wealthy Democratic donor in exchange for political favors, which ended in a mistrial.
Several Senate Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker, have called for Menendez to step down. They believe that stepping down is the right decision given the allegations, as it is a sacrifice that comes with serving in public office. As of now, more than half of the Senate Democratic caucus has stated that Menendez should resign. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and several House Democrats have also called for Menendez’s resignation. Menendez’s seat is up for reelection in 2024 but he has not yet announced if he plans to run again.