Federal prosecutors aren’t letting up on their case against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), levying new charges against the embattled Democrat alleging he used his position atop the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to lobby on behalf of the government of Qatar.
Menendez, who was already accused of illegally influencing the government of Egypt, will now answer for charges that he exploited his office to assist Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate mogul, in securing financial backing from a Qatari official in exchange for lucrative bribes. Some of those payments have already been discovered during a raid of Sen. Menendez’s home where federal authorities uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and solid gold bars stuffed away in sock drawers and closets. He has claimed the assets were stored in case he had to suddenly flee the country.
According to the indictment, prosecutors allege that Daibes “also expected Menendez in exchange to take action to benefit the government of Qatar, and thereby benefit Daibes, who was seeking millions of dollars in investment from a fund with ties to the government of Qatar.”
The 70-year-old, two-term Democrat and his wife Nadine Menendez were both charged in October with aiding another New Jersey businessman, halal importer Wael Hana, in securing a lucrative contract with Egyptian officials despite having no experience or established relationships in the Muslim nation.
An attorney representing Sen. Menendez told the New York Times that the latest indictment “stink of desperation.”
“Despite what they’ve touted in press releases, the government does not have the proof to back up any of the old or new allegations against Senator Menendez,” said attorney Adam Fee. “What they have instead is a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures based on routine, lawful contacts between a senator and his constituents or foreign officials. They are turning this into a persecution, not a prosecution.”
“At all times,” he added, “Senator Menendez acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt and the many other countries he routinely interacts with.”
After facing initial charges, Sen. Menendez resigned his position with the Foreign Relations Committee but so far has resisted calls to back away from running for reelection in 2024. The growing controversy threatens to enmesh Senate Democrats’ plans to carry what would otherwise be a reliable win in a year where the party is already facing headwinds with a competitive map.
In a sign that the Menendez dynasty is no longer assured, four Democrats have launched bids to challenge the incumbent for their party’s nomination. The leading challenger, Congressman Adam Kim (D-NJ), reported raising more than $2 million since September.