Menendez accused of acting as foreign agent for Egypt while helming Senate Foreign Relations Committee


In combination with the earlier charges, the new indictment paints a damning portrait of a sitting congressman allegedly using his office not to benefit his constituents but to advance the interests of a foreign nation.

The original charges accused the Menendezes of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in cash, gold bars, a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible and home mortgage payments. In exchange, prosecutors said, the couple benefitted the three New Jersey businesspeople and the government of Egypt between 2018 and 2022, “including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing.” Menendez had significant influence over those matters as the chair and, prior to that, as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

All of the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges in the original indictment.

In a statement Thursday evening, Menendez insisted he is innocent.

“The government’s latest charge flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and in challenging leaders of that country, including President El-Sisi on these issues,” 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.

An attorney for Hana, Larry Lustberg, called the allegation against his client “as absurd as it is false.” He added: “As with the other charges in this indictment, Mr. Hana will vigorously defend against this baseless allegation.”

The new indictment accused the Menendezes and Hana of a more extreme level of advocacy on behalf of Egypt, saying that the senator “promised to take and took a series of acts on behalf of Egypt, including on behalf of Egyptian military and intelligence officials,” and that his wife and Hana “communicated requests and directives from Egyptian officials” to the senator.

The indictment details several specific instances in which Menendez allegedly sought to benefit Egyptian officials. In May 2019, the senator, his wife and Hana met with an Egyptian intelligence official at Menendez’s Senate office, where they discussed an American citizen who had been injured in a 2015 airstrike by the Egyptian military using a U.S.-manufactured helicopter, according to the indictment. The incident had resulted in some members of Congress objecting to awarding military aid to Egypt.

Shortly after the meeting, Menendez searched for information about the incident online, according to the indictment, and a week later the Egyptian official told Hana in an encrypted message that if Menendez were to help resolve the matter, “he will sit very comfortably.” Hana replied: “orders, consider it done.” The official then sent Hana screenshots of a statement from the American citizen’s attorney, which Hana sent to Nadine Menendez, who forwarded it to her husband.

The indictment also alleges that in the spring of 2020, after Nadine Menendez arranged a meeting between her husband and the same Egyptian official about a dam on the Nile River that “was generally regarded as one of the most important foreign policy issues for Egypt,” Menendez wrote a letter to the then-Treasury secretary and the then-secretary of state to push them to resolve negotiations over the dam.

“I am writing to express my concern about the stalled negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over [the dam],” Menendez wrote, according to court papers. “I therefore urge you to significantly increase the State Department’s engagement on negotiations surrounding the [dam].”

Although Menendez had said prior to the September indictment that he planned to run for reelection in 2024, he appeared less certain after facing the first set of charges.

“I’m not going to jeopardize any seat in New Jersey under any circumstances,” he told reporters earlier this month, saying he hasn’t made a decision yet.

Ursula Perano contributed to this report.



Source link