NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Explaining the Bob Menendez Indictment

Robert and Nadine Menendez arrive for a court appearance on Sept. 27, 2023 | Photo from Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Investigation is ongoing; the article contains details presented as of Oct. 5.  

On Sept. 22, longtime New Jersey senator Robert “Bob” Menendez was charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from an Egyptian-American contact via his wife, Nadine Menendez. Senator Menendez is the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations committee and stands accused of using his influence to protect aid to Egypt and generate money for his Egyptian contacts.  

Egypt is the third-largest foreign recipient of aid from the United States since 1945, according to records of the United States government. Each year, the government in Cairo is sent up to $1.3 billion; this started after the 1978 Camp David Accords, agreements with which the country reached a peace agreement with neighboring Israel. Although the military aid sent to Egypt today is reportedly used for security purposes, the money has mostly paid for large ships and fighter jets that are of little use in combating the ragtag bands of insurgents that are Egypt’s primary security concern.  

Cairo and Washington have often been on rocky ground, with numerous senators voicing opposition claiming that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s administration has shown disregard for human rights. Menendez was purportedly among these and signed a letter in 2018 requesting the Trump administration to bring up human rights violations in Egypt. As chair of the Foreign Relations committee, the senator blocked shipments of arms and money to Saudi Arabia and Turkey over similar human rights concerns.  

The indictment alleges that Menendez told his wife about upcoming votes in which he intended to approve further arms sales to Egypt, and that she then passed the information on to Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana, the owner of a halal meat certification company. Hana is then said to have passed on the information to Egyptian officials and subsequently gained a monopoly over all shipments of halal meat to Egypt. A United States Department of Agriculture report found that the monopoly increased the price of American beef liver by 32% in Egypt.  

“We discovered approximately $500,000 in cash stuffed into envelopes in closets,” said Damian Williams, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a press conference. Other recovered items from the Menendez home include two gold bars of 22 purchased by Hana and a luxury car. The indictment alleges that the day after returning from a trip to Egypt, Menendez searched the Internet with the query, “how much is one kilo of gold worth.” 

Since the explosive accusation, numerous calls to resign have come from Menendez’s closest political allies. Junior New Jersey senator Cory Booker has long been one of Menendez’s staunchest defenders, testifying to his character in a previous corruption trial. However, after days of silence, Booker released a statement that concluded, “I believe stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.” 

New Jersey governor Philip Murphy also called on Menendez to resign. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system,” read his statement. “The alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.” 

The indictment against Menendez is ongoing, and the senator has not been convicted of the allegations. Menendez pleaded “not guilty” to the accusations and released a statement claiming, “For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave. Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction.” 

On Oct. 4, the New York Times reported that Nadine Arslanian, Menendez’s then-fiancée, ran over a man called Robert Koop in a Mercedes-Benz in December 2018. She claimed that she had not seen the man, who had been crossing the road. The Bergen County police report concluded that Arslanian was “not at fault.” 

The federal indictment filed by prosecutors alleges that Menendez used his political influence to have a case against a New Jersey businessman dropped in exchange for a $60,000 Mercedes. This car was allegedly meant to replace the car which had been involved in the crash.  

Menendez was indicted previously on charges of using his political influence to get a favorable outcome for a friend in a Medicare billing case. In 2017, the charges were dropped after a hung jury. The progression of the investigation in the upcoming weeks will determine the future of New Jersey’s senior senator. 

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Vector

Your donation will support the student journalists of New Jersey Institute of Technology. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Mrunmayi Joshi, Managing Editor
Donate to The Vector

Comments (0)

All The Vector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *