Embattled New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was hit with a damning new charge Thursday in his Manhattan case, alleging he conspired to act as an unregistered agent for the Egyptian government behind the scenes as the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The explosive development comes weeks after Menendez and his wife, Nadine, were accused of bribery and corruption offenses for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three New Jersey businessmen in the form of gold bullion bars, stacks of cash, and a sports car in exchange for advancing corrupt interests of the authoritarian nation.
The newly written indictment accuses the longtime senator, his wife, and one of the businessmen they were charged alongside in September, Wael Hana, of plotting to have him carry out Egyptian interests from January 2018 through June 2022 without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Menendez, regardless, couldn’t legally act on Egypt’s behalf while in Congress. He appears to be the first U.S. politician ever charged with conspiracy for a public official to act as a foreign agent.
In a statement, Menendez said the 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 described it as an attempt to “wear him down.”
“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,” Menendez said.
“Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true. The facts haven’t changed, only a new charge,” he added. “I again ask people who know me and my record to give me the chance to present my defense and show my innocence.”
Hana’s and Nadine Menendez’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams’ office alleges Nadine Menendez started setting up meetings between her senator husband and Egyptian officials in 2018 and continued coordinating them through June of last year. The couple allegedly promised to “use his power and authority to facilitate such sales and financing” in exchange for businessman Hana putting Nadine Menendez on his company’s payroll for a low-or no-show job.
New photos in charging papers show Bob Menendez and his crew having dinner with an Egyptian official in Manhattan and smiling alongside officials at his Senate office in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors placed them at his office again in May 2019 for a meeting about an American citizen who was injured in a 2015 airstrike by Egypt. Members of Congress opposed granting military aid to Egypt because they felt it hadn’t fairly compensated the injured American.
After the meeting, prosecutors allege, Bob Menendez looked the incident up online, and an unnamed Egyptian official texted Hana days later, promising that if the senator intervened, “he will sit very comfortably.” Hana allegedly replied, “orders, consider it done.”
Within a week, Hana had passed contact details for the injured American’s attorney to Nadine, who passed it on to her husband before deleting the texts, the indictment alleges.
One of 13 U.S. senators in history to be indicted, Menendez, facing deafening calls to resign, stepped down as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee after a decade following his indictment last month. He’s currently out on a $100,000 bond.
Menendez has claimed he’s the victim of a setup, defending his integrity and insisting his record is “clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable.”
Nadine, whom the senator married in 2018 and maintains her innocence, is described as the scheme’s linchpin in charging papers. She allegedly texted an Egyptian official in March 2020: “anytime you need anything you have my number and we will make everything happen.”
Days later, according to the rewritten indictment, she allegedly followed through on that promise, involving her husband in one of Egypt’s most important foreign policy matters – Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Nile River – and organized for him to meet with an Egyptian official to discuss its hampered talks with Ethiopia and Sudan.
The following month, Menendez wrote to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“I am writing to express my concern about the stalled negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over (the Dam),” he wrote stating, “I therefore urge you to significantly increase the State Department’s engagement on negotiations surrounding the (Dam).”
The original indictment filed last month accused Menendez of leaking information to Egyptian officials in May 2018 through his wife and Hana regarding occupants of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, posing significant security concerns. According to the feds, he also ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of Egyptian officials to U.S. senators urging the release of $300 million in aid.
The senator was also accused of working to keep in place a questionable arrangement in which Hana had exclusive rights over U.S. exports of Halal products to Egypt, pushing back against a USDA official’s concerns.
Menendez and his wife allegedly took cash, furniture, and one-kilogram gold bars from real estate developer and loyal longtime donor Fred Daibes for trying to thwart a federal case against him and attempting to convince then-President Donald Trump to nominate a prosecutor he believed would help his cause.
When they searched Menendez and his wife’s New Jersey home last year, federal authorities say they found over $100,000 worth of gold bars and over $480,000 in closets and jackets emblazoned with his name.
In an ironic twist pointing out Menendez’s alleged hypocrisy, prosecutors on Thursday quoted him in 2020 aggressively calling for an investigation into an unnamed former member of Congress for failing to register as an agent as outlined in the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
“The Act is clear that acting directly or indirectly in any capacity on behalf of a foreign principal triggers the requirement to register under (the Foreign Agents Registration Act),” Menendez wrote the head of the Justice Department’s security division in May 2020.
Menendez reiterated that request two years later, in May 2022, the feds noted, writing Attorney General Merrick Garland to say “it is imperative” the unnamed official be held to account for working in the shadows to carry out a foreign government’s interests.
“If (the Former Member of Congress) carried out work that requires registration under FARA, it is imperative that the Justice Department ensure he is held to account,” Menendez wrote.
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