indictment screenshot

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on federal bribery charges on September 22, 2023.

(Photo: indictment)

Menendez Faces Calls to Step Down Following Bribery Charges

Just Foreign Policy's Aída Chávez said the charges against him "are very serious and call into question Sen. Menendez's character and ability to perform his role as chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

Update (5:00 pm ET):

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed Friday afternoon that Sen. Bob Menendez will temporarily step down as head of the chamber's foreign relations panel after the New Jersey Democrat was hit with federal bribery charges.

"Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial," said Schumer (D-N.Y.). "Sen. Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved."


U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday faced calls to step down from his powerful chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee, or resign altogether, following another damning federal indictment for alleged bribery.

The New Jersey Democrat and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of engaging in "a corrupt relationship" with the businessmen—Wael "Will" Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes—and accepting bribes in the form of "cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value."

Nadine Menendez and the businessmen are also facing charges. The indictment says that the senator "provided sensitive U.S. government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt," as well as "improperly advised and pressured an official at the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of protecting a business monopoly granted to Hana."

The senator also used his role to "disrupt a criminal investigation and prosecution undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office" related to Uribe, the indictment adds. Menendez further recommended that President Joe Biden nominate Philip R. Sellinger as U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, because he believed the lawyer could be influenced regarding a federal criminal prosecution of Daibes.

"It's time for Sen. Menendez to resign. The stain of corruption continuously taints Menendez."

In June 2022 searches of the couple's New Jersey home and a safety deposit box, federal agents found "cash, gold, the luxury vehicle, and home furnishings," the document details. "Over $480,000 in cash—much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe—was discovered in the home, along with over $ 70,000 in Nadine Menendez's safe deposit box."

The 69-year-old senator, who is up for reelection next year, was previously indicted on federal bribery charges in 2015. He temporarily stepped down as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Due to a hung jury, the case ended as a mistrial in 2017. The following year, prosecutors decided not to seek a new trial and Menendez was reelected for his current term.

In a statement Friday, the senator said in part that "I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent."

Nadine Menendez's lawyer, David Schertler, toldThe New York Times that she "denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court."

The newspaper reported that while representatives for two of the businessmen could not immediately be reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hana said that "we are still reviewing the charges but based upon our initial review, they have absolutely no merit."

A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York, Nicholas Biase, told the Times that all five defendants are set to appear in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.

Stressing that the charges against him "are very serious and call into question Sen. Menendez's character and ability to perform his role as chair of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Just Foreign Policy communications director Aída Chávez on Friday urged the senator "to do the right thing and to step down for the duration of these legal proceedings, as he did in 2015."

Given that Menendez is accused of using his post to enrich himself while guiding U.S. foreign policy in a "harmful direction," Chávez argued, Senate leadership should consider a new chair who "is in line with the overwhelming majority of the American people—as well as presidents such as [Barack] Obama and Biden—who want a foreign policy focused on diplomatic solutions."

"Sen. Menendez is notorious for placing roadblocks in the path of efforts by diplomats to reduce tensions and avert war," she explained. "He is also among the senators most responsible for supporting [former President Donald] Trump's cruel efforts to tighten indiscriminate sanctions against innocent populations in places like Cuba and Venezuela, which is a major cause of the surge in migrants at the border and in U.S. cities."

While the senator has not publicly confirmed his plans, NBC Newsreported that "a source close to Menendez says he will step down as chair," in line with Senate Democratic Conference rules regarding felony charges against members of leadership.

Some critics are calling on him to resign as a senator. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) president Noah Bookbinder, a former federal corruption prosecutor, said in a statement that "with these latest revelations, it's time for Sen. Menendez to resign. The stain of corruption continuously taints Menendez."

"CREW has for years raised concerns about Menendez potentially selling his position, and the Senate Ethics Committee previously found serious misconduct by him. The conduct outlined in today's indictment and the evidence presented are even more damning," he added. "The people of New Jersey should not have to be constantly questioning whether one of their senators is taking action for them or to line his pockets. Menendez deserves a fair trial and a presumption of innocence on these latest charges, but it is not appropriate for him to remain in office. Out of respect for the institution of the Senate, he must step down."

The charges against Menendez come amid discussions of corruption on Capitol Hill due to recent revelations about multiple members of the U.S. Supreme Court—including reporting on Friday that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas secretly attended at least two donor events for the Koch network, yet another example of his ties to right-wing billionaires with business before the court.

The Debt Collective wrote on social media Friday, "Who does Bob Menendez think he is, a Supreme Court justice?"

This post has been updated with comment from CREW.

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