Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has been indicted for bribery, U.S. prosecutors announced on Sept. 22.
Mr. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were indicted on charges of bribing three New Jersey businessmen.
In exchange for the bribes, Mr. Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was said to have used his power and influence to "protect and enrich" the businessmen and Egypt, which receives more than $1 billion from the U.S. government per year in grants and military equipment sales.
Those actions allegedly included providing non-public, sensitive information to the government of Egypt and pressuring a top official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect a monopoly that had been secured by one of the businessmen.
After Egypt had begun struggling to receive military aid, Ms. Menendez introduced Egyptian officials to her then-boyfriend at which the officials raised concerns about the stall in funding. Mr. Menendez promised, according to authorities, he would help facilitate the sales in exchange for, among other promises, one of the businessmen saying he would place Ms. Menendez on the payroll of his company.
Mr. Menendez later met with Egyptian military officials at his Senate office. He also met with the businessman and disclosed sensitive information about U.S. military aid. Shortly after the meeting, the businessman allegedly texted one of the officials, writing: “The ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted. That means sales can begin. That will include sniper rifles among other articles.”
In another quoted message, Mr. Menendez wrote to Ms. Menendez after meeting with Egyptian officials that "I am going to sign off this sale to Egypt today." Mr. Menendez could block or approve funding in his position as the top member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Authorities also said Mr. Menendez intervened in a New Jersey state criminal probe into an associate of one of the businessmen, after receiving a new Mercedes-Benz convertible worth more than $60,000 from the businessman. The official who was contacted considered Mr. Menendez's actions inappropriate and declined to act on his recommendations.
After Mr. Menendez contacted another official, the defendant pleaded guilty and received a more favorable agreement than the one he was initially offered.
Mr. Menendez also allegedly sought to try to disrupt federal prosecution of one of the businessmen in exchange for furniture, gold bars, and cash, according to the indictment.
At the same time as he was carrying out actions in exchange for bribes, Mr. Menendez's website said the senator's office could not "compel an agency to act in your favor or expedite your case" or "overturn or influence matters involving private business."
"We allege that behind the scenes, Sen. Menendez was doing those things for certain people—the people who were bribing him and his wife," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams told a press conference announcing the charges.
Mr. Menendez said in a statement that the indictment contained "baseless allegations."
He added: "They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version."
Mr. Menendez, 69, has served as a U.S. senator since 2006. He is up for reelection in 2024.
Previous corruption charges, including bribery, were brought against Mr. Menendez in 2015. According to charging documents, the senator accepted nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for taking actions that benefited the doctor, including supporting visa applications for the doctor's girlfriends.
A jury could not reach a decision, resulting in a mistrial. Mr. Menendez was then acquitted by a judge of some of the charges. Federal prosecutors dropped the rest.
The Senate Ethics Committee found in 2018 that Mr. Menendez knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts, such as private flights and lodging at a villa in the Dominican Republic, from the doctor without obtaining required approval. The senator also failed to disclose the gifts, which was required by Senate rules and federal law. The committee also said Mr. Menendez, while accepting the gifts, used his position as a senator "to advance Dr. Melgen's personal and business interests" in violation of the law and Senate rules.
Dr. Melgen was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Former President Donald Trump commuted Mr. Melgen's sentence.