1 of 4 | Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on bribery charges, the Justice Department announced Friday. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The Justice Department announced Friday that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was indicted on bribery charges.
Later in the day, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Menendez will step down from his post as chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The three-count indictment accuses Menendez and his wife, Nadine, of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes, including cash, gold bars, mortgage payments, pay for a low-show or no-show job, and a luxury vehicle in a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen between 2018 and 2022.
"The indictment alleges that through that relationship, the senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Sen. Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt," Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a news conference Friday.
The indictment named Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes as the businessmen involved in the corruption. Hana is an Egyptian-American who founded a halal meat certification company. Uribe is a former insurance agent. Daibes is a real estate developer.
Menendez, 69, also is accused of using his power and influence, including his leadership role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to benefit the Egyptian government in various ways.
"Among other actions, Sen. Menendez allegedly provided sensitive, nonpublic U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the government of Egypt," Williams said.
The indictment unsealed Friday alleges that Menendez used his influence to pressure an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect a lucrative monopoly provided to Hana by the Egyptian government.
He also is accused of trying to disrupt a criminal investigation by the New Jersey attorney general related to an associate and a relative of Uribe.
Menendez also is accused of recommending someone to be U.S. attorney in New Jersey whom he thought he could influence regarding the federal prosecution of Daibes and trying to influence the prosecutor's office in the case.
"Fortunately, the public officials the senator sought to influence did not bend to the pressure. That's a good thing," Williams said.
The FBI discovered $500,000 of cash stuffed in envelopes and jacket pockets in the residence of Menendez. The FBI also found gold provided by Daibes and Hana and a Mercedes-Benz provided by Uribe.
"I want to make a couple of things very clear," Williams said. "First, my office remains firmly committed to rooting out public corruption without fear or favor and without any regard to partisan politics. That's in our DNA. Always has been. Always will be. Second, this investigation is very much ongoing. We're not done. I want to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to come forward quickly."
In 2017, Menendez faced unrelated corruption charges in a case that ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on all 12 counts against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor.
Late Friday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called for Menendez to resign and issued a statement about the charges, which he called "deeply disturbing."
"These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Under our legal system, Sen. Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process," Murphy said. "However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Sen. Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation."