Menendez charged with acting as agent for Egyptian government

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has been charged with conspiring to act as an agent for the Egyptian government while serving as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Democratic senator – who already stepped aside last month after being accused of bribery and fraud – has been further indicted on new charges that he, his wife Nadine, and co-defendant Wael Hana — plus “others known and unknown” — “wilfully combined, conspired, confederated and agreed together and with each other” to have him “act as an agent” of “the government of Egypt and Egyptian officials”.

The latest indictment also states that Mr Menendez and his co-conspirators committed two “overt acts” to further their conspiracy by meeting at a Manhattan restaurant on 30 June 2018 and on 21 September 2019, with the latter meeting including an unnamed Egyptian official.

Mr Menendez is accused of taking bribes in the form of cash, gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible used by his wife, in exchange for intervening to make sure foreign military aid was directed to the Egyptian government.

At a news conference last month, he said he “firmly believes” that he will be “exonerated” and remain New Jersey’s senior senator after “all the facts are presented”.

Authorities who searched Menendez’s home last year said they found more than $100,000 worth of gold bars and over $480,000 in cash — much of it hidden in closets, clothing and a safe.

The new charge against Menendez comes as more than 30 Senate Democrats — including his home state colleague, Cory Booker – have called on him to resign. Menendez has remained defiant, telling colleagues he will not leave the Senate.

Menendez has not said whether he will run for reelection next year. At least one Democrat, New Jersey Republican Andy Kim, has already jumped into the primary, and the head of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, Michigan Senator Gary Peters, has called on Menendez to resign, signalling that he may not receive campaign assistance traditionally available to incumbents.

The Justice Department in recent years has stepped up its criminal enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the United States that requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they advocate, lobby or perform public relations work in the US on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.

The statute made headlines during Donald Trump’s administration when federal prosecutors accused multiple aides close to the Republican, including the chairman of his 2016 presidential campaign, of failing to register as foreign agents.

Last year, Trump’s inaugural committee chair, Tom Barrack, was acquitted of using his personal access to him to secretly promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates. And in 2019, lawyer Greg Craig, a Democrat, was acquitted of making a false statement to the Justice Department about work for Ukraine’s government.

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