Senator Bob Menendez Pleads not Guilty in Federal Court to Bribery Charges – Senator Bob Menendez entered a plea of innocence on Wednesday in response to allegations of receiving bribes from three New Jersey businessmen. As these accusations mounted, fellow Democrats increasingly called for his resignation. Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Menendez, aged 69, and his wife Nadine with accepting gold bars and substantial sums of cash.
In return, they are alleged to have used the senator’s influence to assist the Egyptian government and obstruct law enforcement investigations into the businessmen. Menendez made his plea during a hearing presided over by US magistrate judge Ona Wang in Manhattan. Judge Wang determined that Menendez could be released on a personal recognizance bond of $100,000.
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The Democratic senator must surrender his personal passport but can retain his official passport for official international duties. Additionally, his wife, Nadine Menendez, aged 56, along with businessmen Jose Uribe, aged 56, and Fred Daibes, aged 66, have all pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Wael Hana, aged 40, also entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday.
Menendez, one of the two senators representing New Jersey, has stepped down from his role as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, as per his party’s regulations. However, he announced on Monday that he intends to remain in the Senate and contest the charges. Over half of all US Democratic senators, including Cory Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey and a historically close ally, have called for Menendez to resign since the charges were unveiled last Friday.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, joined his fellow Senate Democrats on Wednesday in urging Menendez to step down. He expressed this sentiment on X, formally Twitter, indicating that he believes Menendez can no longer effectively serve. The Senate is narrowly controlled by Democrats with 51 seats, including three independents who typically align with them, compared to the Republicans’ 49 seats.
Furthermore, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, who would appoint a temporary replacement should Menendez resign, has also called for him to step down. The indictment included photographs of gold bars and currency that investigators confiscated from Menendez’s residence. According to prosecutors, Hana orchestrated meetings between the senator and Egyptian officials who urged him to approve military aid.
In exchange, Hana allegedly placed Menendez’s wife on the payroll of a company he oversaw. This investigation represents the third occasion when federal prosecutors have looked into Menendez’s conduct. However, he has never been found guilty of any charges. Pete Aguilar, who chairs the House Democratic caucus, made a public call for Menendez’s resignation during a news conference alongside House Democratic leadership.