Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was indicted Friday on corruption charges in Manhattan, N.Y., following an investigation by federal prosecutors.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
We turn now to news out of the Justice Department. U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, along with his wife, have been charged on federal charges of corruption. The New Jersey Democrat has been accused of accepting hundreds and thousands of dollars from three businessmen as bribes in exchange for his use of power as a Senator to help them. Ryan Lucas, NPR’s justice correspondent is here with us. Hey there.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello.
KELLY: Tell us more about the charges.
LUCAS: Well, the – Menendez and his wife face three charges – conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. Three New Jersey businessmen were also charged with bribing Menendez to get his help. The fact that one of them was born in Egypt ties some of the criminal activity here. According to the indictment Menendez is accused of giving sensitive U.S. information and taking concrete steps to secretly assist the Egyptian government. This includes non-public info about U.S. Military Aid to Egypt and information about U.S. Embassy staff in Cairo. Ryan, what else is the government saying he did for these bribes?
LUCAS: Well, prosecutors also say that Menendez pressured a U.S. Department of Agriculture official to try to protect a lucrative business monopoly that one of the businessmen had set up. Menendez allegedly also tried to interfere with a New Jersey state prosecution involving a co-defendant. And prosecutors say Menendez used his position as senator to try to influence a federal criminal prosecution, also in New Jersey, of yet another one of his co-defendants.
KELLY: OK – so a lot of details. What stands out for you as you read this, Ryan? In the indictment, it is stated that federal agents found $480,000 of cash in Menendez’s house in June 2022. Some of this money was stuffed in envelopes. Prosecutors claim that fingerprints from one of Menendez’s co-defendants were found on some of the envelopes. Some of the money was hidden in clothing. In the indictment, there’s actually a picture of two jackets that had Menendez’s monogrammed. There are also stacks of $100 notes that were allegedly concealed in these coats. Agents also discovered bars of gold. In the indictment there’s a photo of them. It also states that Menendez searched for “how much does one kilogram of gold cost? “
KELLY: OK. Senator Menendez is not facing federal charges of corruption for the first time. He has fought previous charges. He won. What’s he saying now?
LUCAS : You are right. In 2014, he was indicted on unrelated charges of bribery in New Jersey. Menendez tried the case and ended up with a hung juror. These charges were eventually dropped. He did fight those charges back then. This time he’s doing the same thing. In a statement he released today, he accused prosecutors of misrepresenting the work that Menendez describes as normal for a congressional office. He claimed that prosecutors had attacked his wife. He claims that these allegations are unfounded. The facts do not match what the prosecutors claim. He said it was the same thing as the last time he had been prosecuted. He said, “Look how it ended.” He was not convicted. Thank you. Thank you.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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