Sen. Bob Menendez, wife charged with bribery

Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, have been indicted on federal bribery charges after authorities said they took cash, gold bars, a luxury car and more from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for a range of corrupt acts.

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Update 5:16 p.m. EDT Sept. 22: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement Friday regarding the indictment against Menendez.

The AP reported that Murphy, a fellow democrat, is calling for Menendez to resign immediately.

“The allegations in the indictment against Senator Menendez and four other defendants are deeply disturbing. These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process. However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation,” Murphy said in the statement.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Update 4:39 p.m. EDT Sept. 22: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Menendez would step down as the Foreign Relations Committee chairman temporarily or “until the mater has been resolved,” according to The Associated Press.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Original story: Authorities said the charges are connected with the couple’s “corrupt relationship” with businessmen Wael Hana — also known as Will Hana — Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. The couple accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using the New Jersey Democrat’s power to protect and enrich the businessmen “and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt,” officials said.

The New Jersey Democrat denied that he had accepted bribes in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”

Menendez chairs the powerful Foreign Relations committee, and investigators believe he used his leadership role “to benefit the government of Egypt in various ways,” including by giving Egyptian officials “sensitive, non-public U.S. government information,” U.S. Attorney Damien Williams said at a news conference on Friday.

Authorities indicted Menendez, Arslanian, Hana, Uribe and Daibes on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The senator and his wife were also charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right.

In the indictment, prosecutors said that the couple got bribes that “included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle” and more between 2018 and 2022.

Authorities said that in exchange, Menendez pressured a senior official at the Department of Agriculture to protect a lucrative monopoly that the Egyptian government gave to Hana and tried to disrupt a criminal investigation into a relative of Uribe’s, among other things.

During a search of Menendez’s home and a safety deposit box in New Jersey, authorities found $500,000 in cash stuffed into envelopes, closets and in the senator’s jacket pockets. They also found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold bars, authorities said.

“This investigation is very much ongoing,” Williams said Friday. “We’re not done.”

The case marks the second time corruption charges have been leveled against Menendez.

In 2015, federal prosecutors charged Menendez and Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen with bribery. Authorities accused Menendez of accepting gifts from Melgen, and in return using his power in the Senate to benefit the eye doctor.

Prosecutors dropped the case in 2018, a short while after a federal jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the case.

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