US Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and his wife Nadine Arslanian, arrive at the US District Court, Southern District of New York, in New York City on September 27, 2023.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images
US Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey appeared in court Wednesday on criminal charges.
Prosecutors allege he accepted cash and gold bricks from businessmen to help the Egyptian government.
Protesters outside court joined at least 30 Democratic senators calling on him to resign.
US Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey made his first court appearance Wednesday morning on charges accusing him of accepting numerous bribes in the form of gold bars, cash, and a Mercedes-Benz, among other treats, in exchange for making foreign policy decisions that benefited the government of Egypt.
Appearing defiant with a slight smile, the Democratic senator strode into the Manhattan federal courthouse alongside his wife, Nadine Menendez, who prosecutors allege also accepted the bribes.
On the sidewalk, protesters called for his resignation from the US Senate. Photographers captured one holding a “RESIGN” sign behind his head.
Menendez’s court appearance comes amid growing calls from his colleagues asking for him to resign. As of Wednesday morning, 30 Democratic senators have publicly called for his resignation, including Cory Booker, the other US senator representing New Jersey.
Zero Republican senators have called for Menendez’s resignation. (Former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential race, has four pending criminal cases against him.)
Three other co-defendants in the case, Egyptian-American businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, had scheduled appearances in the courthouse Wednesday as well. All five defendants pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan allege that, in about 2019, the businessmen gave Menendez and his wife cash, gold, mortgage payments, a Mercedes-Benz, an air purifier, and other bribes. In exchange, according to the indictment unsealed last week, prosecutors allege that Menendez used his powerful perch on the Senate’s foreign relations committee to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Egypt and help shape an international construction project in a way that Egypt preferred.
Menendez is due in court to answer to federal charges alleging he used his powerful post to secretly advance Egyptian interests and carry out favors for local businessmen in exchange for bribes of cash and gold bars.
AP Photo/Jeenah Moon
In one example recounted in the indictment, prosecutors allege Menendez texted his wife to tell Hana, one of the businessmen, that he was “going to sign off this sale to Egypt today. Egypt: 46,000 120MM Target Practice Rounds and 10,000 Rounds Tank Ammunition: $99 million.”
Nadine Menendez then forwarded the text to Hana, who forwarded it to an Egyptian government official, the indictment says.
“Egyptian Official-1 replied with a ‘thumbs up’ emoji,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
Prosecutors also allege that Menendez interfered in a criminal prosecution of another person linked to the businessmen and helped a halal certification agency owned by one of them to obtain a monopoly on Egyptian goods sold in New Jersey.
Menendez has denied the criminal charges, saying prosecutors “misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office.”
On Wednesday, US Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang allowed Menendez to be released on a $100,000 bond. As part of the conditions, he is forbidden from talking to staffers with knowledge of the case unless one of his lawyers is present. He’s also not allowed to travel internationally, except as part of his Senate duties.
Nadine Menendez was released on a $250,000 bond and her travel was restricted to parts of New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Florida, where she has family.
Prosecutors in New Jersey previously accused Menendez of bribery in a separate case. When he went to trial on those charges in 2017, the jury failed to convict him, and the charges were dropped.
This story is breaking and will be updated.