Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is already in hot water over charges that he, his wife, and at least one associate took bribes from entities seeking to take advantage of the senator’s influence and position to benefit the Egyptian government. The charges against Menendez forced him to resign as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he has insisted that the allegations are a “smear campaign” against him.
This week, a superseding indictment brought even more charges against Menendez involving another country attempting to buy the senator’s influence. The new charges come just weeks after Menedez’s attorneys have asked to delay the trial on the original charges.
“Federal prosecutors allege Sen. Bob Menendez accepted race car tickets and other gifts from Qatar as part of a yearslong corruption scheme, with the Gulf nation joining Egypt as another foreign country the New Jersey Democrat is accused of helping while in office,” reports CNN.
According to prosecutors, Menendez accepted payment “in exchange for using his influence to help [his co-defendant, developer Fred] Daibes obtain millions of dollars from an investment fund tied to Qatar,” as CNN explains. The Qatari government allegedly provided Menendez with gold bars and tickets to Formula One races, as well as investing tens of millions of dollars with Daibes.
According to the indictment, Menendez made multiple statements and press releases praising the Qatari government to encourage investment. The senator sent Daibes copies of statements and resolutions that were favorable toward Qatar.
“Menendez provided Daibes with these statements so that Daibes could share them with the Qatari Investor and a Qatari government officials associated with the Qatari Investment Company,” prosecutors claim, and they also state that Menendez didn’t disclose the gifts he received from Qatari officials.
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing, and he and his co-conspirators have pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys released a statement on Tuesday asserting that “the government does not have the proof to back up any of the old or new allegations” and claiming that their client has always acted “based on his professional judgment as to the best interests of the United States because he is, and always has been, a patriot.” The lawyers also maintain that Menendez always “acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt, and the many other countries he routinely interacts with.”
These new charges come as Menendez faces a crowded primary field in his 2024 reelection bid. The Washington Examiner reports that the senator’s approval ratings have fallen below 10% in recent polls, while at least one primary opponent has out-fundraised him recently. Republicans are even eyeing Menendez’s seat as a possible pick-up, as far-fetched as the prospect may seem in a blue state.
As defiant as Menendez and his attorneys are, it’s painfully obvious that he faces an uphill battle in 2024 — against the long arm of the law and against his state’s voters. It’s hard to picture him emerging unscathed from either battle.