An emotional Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) took to the floor of the upper chamber on Tuesday to denounce what he called his “persecution” by the Justice Department following new bribery allegations tying him to a Qatar-based real estate investment firm linked to that country’s royal family.
“The United States Attorney’s Office has engaged not in a prosecution, but a persecution. They seek a victory, but not justice,” Mendendez declared of his second superseding indictment in the Southern District of New York.
“By filing three indictments — one in late September, a second one a few weeks later in mid-October and a third one just last week in early January — it allows the government to keep the sensational story in the press, it poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion,” he added.
“In so doing, the government’s tactics harm not just me, but each of you, my colleagues, the political establishment, and most importantly the electorate of New Jersey.”
The Sept. 12 indictment catalogs the Democratic senator and his wife’s alleged acceptance of bribes — including 13 gold bars, more than $566,000 in cash and a Mercedes-Benz convertible — from three wealthy Garden State businessmen.
On Oct. 12, subsequent charges alleged Menendez leveraged his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations to act as an agent of the Egyptian government.
Prosecutors say Menendez received some of that cash and gold after introducing real estate developer Fred Daibes to a member of the Qatari ruling family in 2021, so that Daibes could strike a deal with a Doha-linked firm, the Jan. 2 superseding indictment shows.
Daibes and the other businessmen — Wael Hana and Jose Uribe — are named as co-defendants in each indictment, alongside Menendez’s wife, Nadine. The senator has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“There is no evidence of the giving or receiving of cash and gold bars. In fact, there has been and will be a trial, a full explanation of what is the truth about those issues,” Menendez inaccurately stated in his Senate floor speech.
“Almost everyone, including my friends in the press who have reported on it, haven’t read the indictment,” he also wrongly claimed. “They’ve only taken the government’s sensational narrative of what those accusations are as truth.”
The indictments have all been unsealed and are publicly available, while other reports have confirmed that serial numbers on the gold bars the FBI took from Menendez’s home in June 2022 match those from other bars previously stolen from Daibes’ Edgewater residence in 2013.
Envelopes containing wads of cash seized at Menendez’s house were also discovered to have Daibes’ driver’s fingerprints on them, according to the first unsealed indictment.
Menendez reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 70-year-old in his speech also rejected charges of conspiring to act as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government as another “outrageous accusation,” claiming prosecutors have argued the actions of lawmakers who “attract investment and economic opportunity to their states would now be a crime.”
“It opens a dangerous door for the Justice Department to take the normal engagement of members of Congress with a foreign government and to transform those engagements into a charge of being a foreign agent for that government,” he said.
The New Jersey Democrat further denied he was “on the take with Egypt” given his record of holding the Cairo government accountable for its human rights abuses and that his case shows “broad” charges could be filed against any government official under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
“When members of the Senate from agricultural states went to Communist Cuba to sell rice or poultry or sugar or beef, and were told by the Castro regime that they would consider doing so but that the senators needed to convince the US administration to change US law and lift the embargo and permit credit to take place for such sales — and then came back to the United States and advocated for exactly that request — that makes them a foreign agent of Cuba,” he suggested.
“I’m innocent, and I intend to prove my innocence, not just for me, but for the precedent this case will set for you and future members of the Senate,” Menendez exclaimed, saying he would again ignore calls for his resignation that have even come from fellow Democrats like Sen. John Fetterman (Pa.).
“I am suffering greatly as a result of what they have done,” he went on, choking up with emotion. “After 50 years of public service, this is not how I wanted to celebrate my golden jubilee. But I have never violated the public trust. I have been a patriot for my country.”
If convicted on all charges, Menendez faces nearly as much time in federal prison as he has served in public office.