Bob Menendez, a senator from New Jersey, is in hot water already over allegations that he and his wife took bribes to help the Egyptian government. Menendez was forced to resign from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the charges were brought against him. He has maintained that the accusations are part of a “smear” campaign against him.
A superseding indictment this week brought more charges against Menendez, including another country trying to buy his influence. These new charges are coming just weeks after Menedez’s lawyers asked to delay his trial for the original charges.
CNN reports that “Federal prosecutors claim Sen. Bob Menendez received race car tickets, and other gifts, from Qatar in a long-running corruption scheme. The Gulf nation joins Egypt as a foreign country accused of receiving assistance while the New Jersey Democrat was in office.”
CNN explains that according to prosecutors Menendez received payment “in return for using his influence to help [his defendant, developer Fred] Daibes, obtain millions of dollars from an investment fund linked to Qatar.” Qatari authorities allegedly gave Menendez gold bars, and tickets to Formula One racing and invested tens of millions of dollars in Daibes.
Indictment: Menendez issued multiple press releases and statements praising the Qatari government to encourage investment. Daibes received copies of the senator’s statements and resolutions in favor of Qatar.
Prosecutors claim that Menendez gave Daibes these statements to allow Daibes to share them with a Qatari Investor, a Qatari Government official associated with the Qatari Investment Company, and other Qatari government officials. They also claim that Menendez did not disclose the gifts that he received from Qatari authorities.
Menendez and his coconspirators have denied all wrongdoing and pleaded guilty to the charges. In a Tuesday statement, his attorneys claimed that the government did not have proof to support any of the allegations, old or new and that their client had always acted based on “his professional judgment” as to what was in the best interest of the United States, because he has been a patriot. They also claim that Menendez has always acted “appropriately” with Qatar, Egypt, and other countries with which he regularly interacts.
Menendez is facing a crowded field of primary candidates for his reelection campaign in 2024. The Washington Examiner reported that Menendez’s approval rating has fallen below 10%, and at least one of his primary opponents has out-fundraised him in recent times. Republicans are eyeing Menendez as a potential pick-up candidate, no matter how unlikely it may seem to be in a predominantly blue state.
Menendez, his lawyers, and his defiance are admirable. But it is painfully clear that in 2024 he will face a steep battle — both against the long arms of the law and the voters of his state. It’s difficult to imagine him surviving either battle.