Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat representing New Jersey, pleaded not guilty on Monday to a new charge alleging that he accepted bribes from the Egyptian government and conspired to act as a foreign agent while serving as a member of Congress. The brief hearing, which lasted less than five minutes, saw Menendez, dressed in a pinstripe suit with a red tie, sitting alongside his lawyers.
Leaving the federal courthouse in New York City, Menendez told NBC: “We are innocent. We are going to prove it.” In a subsequent statement, he continued to deny any wrongdoing and described the latest charge as “outrageous” and “absurd.”
Menendez vowed that he would be found innocent when all the facts were presented, emphasizing his loyalty to the United States. He said, “I have been, throughout my life, loyal to only one country — the United States of America, the land my family chose to live in democracy and freedom.”
Referring to the government’s approach to his case, Menendez claimed, “The government is engaged in primitive hunting, by which the predator chases its prey until it’s exhausted and then kills it. This tactic won’t work.”
Menendez’s co-defendants, including his wife, Nadine Menendez, and businessman Wael Hana, had previously pleaded not guilty to the new charges. The senator had been absent from the previous court proceeding due to Senate business.
The recent superseding indictment alleges that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.” It also suggests that Menendez’s wife and Hana worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to the senator to establish a corrupt agreement. The charge claims that from 2018 to 2022, they conspired to have Menendez act as an agent of the Egyptian government.
Last month, Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty to corruption charges, which accused them of accepting substantial sums in return for using the senator’s influence to benefit the Egyptian government and New Jersey businessmen. As a result of these charges, Menendez stepped down as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversaw significant U.S. aid to Egypt.
In a statement earlier this month, Menendez declared his intention to “show my innocence” during the trial. Menendez’s wife denied all allegations, and Hana’s attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, refuted the allegations against his client.
In addition to the corruption case, the FBI is investigating whether Egypt’s intelligence services played a role in the alleged bribery scheme. Many Democratic colleagues of Menendez had called for his resignation following the indictment.
The case marks Menendez’ second federal indictment since entering the senate” in 2006. In 2015, he was charged with illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor, but the case ended in a mistrial as jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, and prosecutors decided against a retrial.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.