Democratic Senator Bob Menendez says piles of cash found in his home during his bribery probe were withdrawn from his personal savings in an incredible press conference on Monday denying corruption allegations.
The New Jersey lawmaker called the claims against him ‘salacious’ and insisted he will be exonerated because prosecutors ‘sometimes get it wrong’.
He didn’t mention the more than $100,000 worth of gold bars or the Mercedes prosecutors say he received for doing favors for a New Jersey developer as he confirmed he will not resign.
‘I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, but as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be the New Jersey’s senior senator.’
The Democratic senator, who beat back corruption charges in 2015, noted: ‘Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes. Sadly I know that.’
At a press conference, where he made his first public comments since Friday’s indictment, Menendez pushed back against some of the specific charges against him, including that he took actions to benefit Egypt’s government and took bribes in the form of cash and gold bars in exchange for political favors, which he claims was from his savings.
Senator Bob Menendez proclaimed his innocence
He did not address whether he will run for re-election next year. More than two dozen Democrats in New Jersey have called for him to resign and one top Democrat in the state has announced a Senate bid.
Menendez said he will return to Washington DC this week to perform his duties as senator.
‘For now, I am remained focused on continuing to do the important work that I do every day on behalf of the 9 million people who call New Jersey home and including everything we can this week to avoid a government shutdown and everything to avoid catastrophic natural disasters and ensuring that the people in Ukraine have everything to defeat Putin and I will return to Washington to do that,’ he said.
In a June 2022 raid on Menendez’s home, investigators found $400,00 in cash stuffed in envelopes and in the pockets of jackets with Menendez’ nameon them. They also found gold bars worth $110,000.
Menendez defended the money, saying he often kept cash on hand because it’s a lesson he learned from his parents, who escaped Fidel Castro’s Cuba to live in the United States. He didn’t mention the gold bars found in his New Jersey hom.
‘For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the emergency of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,’ he said.
‘Maybe it is old fashioned, but these were monies withdrawn from my personal savings account from the income that I have lawfully derived. I will defend those actions at court,’ he said.
The 27-page indictment, unsealed on Friday, claims that Bob and Nadine Menendezt had an improper relationship with three New Jersey businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, who allegedly paid the couple in exchange for Menendez to use his influence in Washington D.C. to their benefit.
The couple face three criminal counts each: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. The three businessmen face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud
The indictment also charges the senator with providing ‘sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.’
Menendez defended his record on Egpyt.
‘Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained steadfast on the side of civil society and human rights defenders in Egypt and everywhere else in the world. If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment and throughout my whole career, my record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable for the unjust detention of Americans and others and the human rights abuses,’ he said.
Menendez has hired the same lawyer as Hunter Biden to defend him against federal bribery charges, CNBC reported. Attorney Abbe Lowell is representing Hunter Biden in his defense against federal gun charges and will now take on the senator’s case.
Lowell also represenated Menendez in 2015 when he faced corruption charges that were eventually dropped.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Arslanian arrive for a state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House in December 2022; the couple has been charged on three criminal counts related to bribery and extortion
But support for the embattled Democrat is waning. More than two dozen Democrats in New Jersey have called on him to resign.
And, Rep. Andy Kim, who cleaned up the Capitol after the rioters left on Jan. 6, 2021, announced he’s running for Senate, setting up a tough primary challenge for Menendez.
‘This is not something I expected to do, but I believe New Jersey deserves better,’ Kim said in a statement. ‘We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our country´s integrity. I believe it´s time we restore faith in our democracy, and that´s why I am stepping up and running for Senate.’
It is the second round of bribery charges for Menendez. A 2015 case ended in mistrial after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts and a judge acquitted him on some charges.
But, in contrast to eight years ago, when many in the party stood by him, multiple Democrats – including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman – have called on Menendez to resign.
‘The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state,’ Murphy said. As governor, he would appoint a senator to replace Menendez should he resign.
Notably, New Jersey’s other Democratic Senator, Cory Booker, has been silent on Menendez.
Menendez himself has remained defiant – although he has stepped down from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Rep. Andy Kim announced he will run for Senate in 2024, setting up a Democratic primary challenge with Menendez – above, Kim garnered national attention when he helped clean up the Capitol after the January 6 insurrection
Senator Menendez and his wife Nadine are charged with accepting gold bars as bribes
Menendez called the investigation ‘an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.’
‘The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent,’ Menendez said. ‘They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.’
He also claimed he is being ‘falsely accused’ because he is a ‘Latin American’ who rose from a humble childhood to the United States Senate.
‘Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first generation Latin American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator,’ he said.
Republicans see an opening to win a Senate seat if Menendez stays on the ballot.
But former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ruled out a run, sticking with his campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee.
‘I have no interest in being in the United States Senate,’ Christie told Meet the Press host Kristen Welker in a Sunday morning interview.
Fred Daibes, Chairman and CEO of Daibes Enterprises, in his Edgewater office
The indictment outlines a series of texts, payments and actions the couple allegedly took to help the three businessmen, actions from which they financially benefited.
The probe listed several ‘bribes’ paid to them. ‘Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value,’ the indictment said.
A June 2022 raid on their New Jersey home found ‘over $480,000 in cash – much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,’ the indictment notes, adding Nadine had over $70,000 in a safe deposit box.
It also found two one-kilogram gold bars and eleven one-ounce gold bars.
The indictment alleges that Menendez tried to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution of Fred Daibes in exchange for the money and other items of value. Daibes is an old friend of Menendez, has fundraised for his Senate campaign, and allegedly has ties to the Genovese mob family.
The indictment charges Menendez ‘promised to and did use his influence and power’ to pressure President Joe Biden to nominate a U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who Menendez ‘believed could be influenced by Menendez with respect to the federal criminal prosecution of Fred Daibes.’
Menendez recommended and Biden later nominated Phillip Sellinger as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, the top federal prosecutor in the state.
Daibes has been under investigation before. New Jersey authorities have tracked high-ranking mobsters meeting with Daibes repeatedly over the last decade, the Daily Beast reported.
Daibes provided the couple with gold bars and envelopes of cash, the indictment states.
‘Multiple gold bars provided by Daibes were found during the court-authorized June 2022 search; of the couple’s home, the indictment states. It also says the senator performed a web search for ‘how much is one kilo of gold worth’ and that the envelopes of cash had the fingerprints of Daibes and his driver.
Cash was found in envelopes during a June 2022 raid of Menendez home
The luxury Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000
The investigation also focused on 40-year-old New Jersey businessman, Wael Hana, who has known Nadine since before she started dating Menendez.
Hana, who is originally from Egypt, operated the company IS EG Halal in New Jersey and it soon became the sole entity authorized to certify that any halal food product imported into Egypt from anywhere in the world had been prepared according to Islamic law.
According to the indictment, Menendez ‘improperly advised and pressured an official at the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of protecting a business monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt and used in part to fund the bribes being paid to Menendez through Nadine Menendez.’
The designation of IS EG Halal surprised U.S. agriculture officials. Previously, several other companies had been doing that certification, but they were dismissed by Egyptian agriculture officials in favor of IS EG Halal, which had no previous experience in the field.
The indictment charges Menendez with using the power of his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to influence the State Department regarding policy in Egypt and with sending Nadine ‘highly sensitive’ about Egypt that he got in Senate briefings that she, in turn, gave to Hana.
As a senator, Menendez could put a ‘hold’ on State Department funding to the country.
In a text to his wife, Menendez tells her: ‘I am going to sign off this sale to Egypt today. Egypt: 46,000 120MM Target Practice Rounds and 10,000 Rounds Tank Ammunition: $99 million.’
Nadine then forwarded it to an Egyptian official who replies with the thumbs up emoji.