Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and his wife, Nadine, pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in Manhattan federal court. The charges stem from a bribery conspiracy that involved weapons sales and aid to the government of Egypt. According to prosecutors, the couple accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bullion, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible as bribes from three New Jersey businessmen. The scheme also benefitted one of the businessmen’s halal meat business, which eventually won a contract to certify imported food products according to Islamic law. The investigation, led by the FBI and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, revealed cash, gold bullion, and a Mercedes in the couple’s possession.
The bribery conspiracy alleged by prosecutors painted a web of corruption that shocked and disturbed even one of Senator Menendez’s closest allies, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Despite calls from top Democrats, including Governor Philip D. Murphy and Senator Booker, for him to step down, Menendez has expressed confidence in being exonerated once all the facts are presented. He has also been accused of trying to silence a high-level U.S. Department of Agriculture official who objected to the monopoly benefiting the halal meat business involved in the scheme. The charges brought against Menendez and his wife followed a prior corruption trial in 2015, where the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, and the Justice Department declined to retry him.
The investigation uncovered a vast network of corruption involving payments to Menendez and his wife in exchange for the senator’s influence in directing federal aid and weapons sales to Egypt. The conspiracy also allowed one of the businessmen’s halal meat company to secure an exclusive contract for certifying imported meat products according to Islamic law. The couple was found to possess significant amounts of cash, gold bullion, and a luxury car. The case has drawn attention and criticism from prominent Democrats, with some calling for Menendez’s resignation. However, Menendez remains confident in his eventual exoneration and has rejected the calls to step down. This latest indictment follows a prior corruption trial that ended with a hung jury and the Justice Department declining to pursue a retrial.