New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez arrived in court Wednesday morning to answer explosive allegations that he was bribed with $100,000 in gold bars and wads of cash to do favors for New Jersey businessmen and the Egyptian government.
The Democrat is making his first appearance in a Manhattan federal court amid mounting calls from colleagues for him to resign from Congress.
He arrived hand in hand with his wife Nadine, who will also be arraigned.
Menendez was forced to resign as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee after the charges were filed last week.
But he has been defiant, saying accusations that he has abused his power to line his own pockets are unfounded.
He has said he is confident he will be acquitted and has no plans to leave the Senate.
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, arrive at the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, on September 27, 2023, in New York City
A protester holds a sign as the senator and his wife arrive at the court
It is the second corruption case in a decade against Menendez, whose last trial with several charges ended when jurors failed to reach a verdict in 2017.
Fellow New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker joined calls for Menendez’s resignation on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the indictment contains “shocking allegations of corruption and specific, disturbing details of misconduct.”
About half of Senate Democrats have now said Menendez should resign, including several who are running for re-election next year.
Menendez’s wife, Nadine, will also be arraigned on Wednesday. Prosecutors say she played a key role in collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three New Jersey businessmen who sought help from the powerful lawmaker.
An attorney for Nadine Menendez has said she also denies the allegations and will fight the charges.
Two of the businessmen – Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes – are also expected to be charged. The third man, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges including conspiracy to commit bribery.
Hana was arrested at New York’s Kennedy Airport on Tuesday after voluntarily returning from Egypt to face charges and was released pending trial.
Authorities say they found nearly $500,000 in cash — much of it hidden in clothing and closets — as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars in a search of the New Jersey home that Menendez, 69, shares with his wife.
In his first public comments since the indictment, Menendez said Monday that the money found in his home had been withdrawn from his personal savings accounts over the years and that he kept it on hand for emergencies.
However, one of the envelopes full of cash found at his home contained Daibes’ DNA and was marked with the real estate developer’s return address, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors say Hana promised to put Menendez’s wife on his company payroll in a low-or-no-show job in exchange for Menendez using his position of influence to facilitate foreign military sales and financing to Egypt .
Prosecutors allege Hana also paid $23,000 toward her mortgage, wrote $30,000 checks to her consulting firm, promised her envelopes of cash, sent her exercise equipment and bought some of the gold bars found in the couple’s home found it.
The indictment alleges repeated actions by Menendez in favor of Egypt despite the U.S. government’s misgivings about the country’s human rights record, which have prompted Congress in recent years to impose restrictions on aid .
Prosecutors, who have detailed meetings and dinners between Menendez and Egyptian officials, say Menendez provided sensitive U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and that Ghost wrote a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to cap the aid at 300 million dollars in aid to Egypt, one of the largest recipients. of US military support.
Prosecutors have accused Menendez of pressuring a U.S. agriculture official to stop opposing a lucrative deal that gave Hana’s company a monopoly on certifying that imported meat met religious standards.
Prosecutors also allege Menendez tried to interfere with criminal investigations involving associates. In one case, he pushed for the appointment of a federal prosecutor in New Jersey, whom Menendez believed could influence to derail a criminal case against Daibes, prosecutors allege.