Veteran US Senator Robert Menendez has temporarily relinquished his position as head of the Senate’s powerful foreign relations committee as he faces bribery charges.
The US Justice Department alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for providing aid to the government of Egypt. Both Menendez and his spouse have denied these charges.
The senator has rejected calls from fellow Democrats in his home state of New Jersey to resign his seat. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Menendez would step down as chairman of the influential committee “until the matter has been resolved.”
Schumer described Menendez as a dedicated public servant fighting for the people of New Jersey.
This isn’t the first time Menendez has faced such circumstances. In 2015, he stepped down as committee chair after being indicted on charges of accepting bribes from a Florida eye doctor.
The case ended in a mistrial as jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.
In the current case, Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting bribes, including cash, gold, mortgage payments, and a luxury vehicle, from three New Jersey businessmen.
Prosecutors claim that these bribes were accepted to secretly assist the Egyptian government and enrich the businessmen.
The indictment alleges that Menendez’s position and influence as a senator enabled this influence-peddling.
Both Menendez and his spouse face three criminal counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
Mrs. Menendez, through her lawyers, has denied wrongdoing and pledged to defend herself in court.
Robert Menendez has portrayed the allegations as politically motivated, stating that there have been attempts to silence him for years.
He expressed confidence that the matter would be resolved once all the facts are presented.
Despite Menendez’s defiance, several top Democrats, including members of Congress from New Jersey, have called for his resignation.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy stated that the allegations were so serious that they compromised Menendez’s ability to represent the people of the state.
Under New Jersey law, if Menendez resigns from the Senate, the governor would appoint a temporary replacement to serve out the rest of his term.
However, any delay between resignation and temporary appointment could pose challenges for Democrats in the Senate, which they currently control by a one-seat margin.
Menendez’s indictment follows a lengthy Justice Department investigation. In the summer of 2022, federal agents executed search warrants at his home, uncovering evidence of bribery agreements, including a significant amount of cash, a luxury vehicle, and gold bars.
As a result of the charges, Menendez and his wife have been asked to forfeit several assets, including their New Jersey home.
The co-defendants in the case are scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on September 27, alongside the senator and his wife. The White House, which considers Menendez a key foreign policy ally, has not yet commented on the situation.
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