U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has been under fire for months after his indictment as part of a bribery case that prosecutors allege netted him and his wife “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in payoffs in exchange for using his influence to benefit foreign nations and businessmen.
This week, federal authorities revealed the existence of “information from a particular confidential source” that allegedly includes audio recordings of conversations between Menendez and a trio of individuals with Egyptian connections.
For their part, the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, claimed to have been victims of one of those businessmen, Wael Hana.
The New Jersey Democrat has rebuffed calls from within his own party to resign, filing a request last month to have the charges against him dropped and declaring in a speech from the Senate floor that he had “never violated the public trust” and has “been a patriot” during his years as a lawmaker.
Although prosecutors acknowledged that Hana had been running his own scam and did not give the Menendezes “the full value of the bribes they should have received,” they noted that this fact did not negate evidence of the underlying bribery.
“Far from undermining that Menendez and Hana were in a conspiracy, the evidence that Hana allegedly took more of what he recognized as bribes and shortchanged the Menendezes is proof that the bribery scheme indeed existed,” they argued.
Despite the evidence outlined in the latest brief, defense attorneys claim that the senator has also been the victim of an overzealous Justice Department.
“We look forward to the court’s review of the merits of our motions that expose how the government has overcharged and overhyped this case,” one of his lawyers declared.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, have urged the court not to dismiss the case because “legislators ought not to stand above the law they create but ought generally to be bound by it as are ordinary persons.”
Meanwhile, Menendez defiantly remains in his seat in the face of calls from more than half of his fellow Senate Democrats to resign.
Senator Menendez should resign.
He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations.
I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.
— Senator John Fetterman (@SenFettermanPA) September 23, 2023
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who chairs the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, said in September: “Given the serious nature of these charges and how they have undermined the public faith, he is no longer able to serve effectively in the U.S. Senate.”