Robert Menendez: US senator vows he will be cleared in bribery case
A US senator facing bribery charges has explained that his decision to keep nearly half a million dollars in cash at home was influenced by the concerns of his Cuban parents, who feared that their savings might be confiscated by authorities.
Robert Menendez, who represents New Jersey, expressed confidence in his forthcoming exoneration and affirmed his intention to run for re-election next year. He is accused by prosecutors of accepting money, gold bars, and a luxury car in exchange for political favors.
Despite calls from fellow Democrats to step down, Senator Menendez has thus far refused to resign. In a defiant stance, he stated during a press conference on Monday, “Once all the facts are presented, not only will I be vindicated, but I will continue to serve as New Jersey’s senior senator.” This marked his first public appearance since the indictment was issued last Friday.
Speaking in Union City, New Jersey, he added: “Those who rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible.”
Federal agents who searched his New Jersey home last year found more than $480,000 in cash (£393,000) stuffed into envelopes and hidden in jackets, closets, and a safe, along with 13 bars of gold bullion. Another $70,000 was discovered inside his wife’s safety deposit box at a bank.
According to the indictment, Mr. Menendez had searched online for “how much is one kilo of gold worth”.
But in Monday’s news conference, he said: “I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.
“Now this may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.”
Mr. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, suggested last week that the indictment – and calls for his resignation – came from those “rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat”.
The 39-page federal indictment accuses Mr. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of accepting bribes in exchange for the senator’s political influence at home and abroad on behalf of both the government of Egypt and business associates in New Jersey.
Investigators also said they found a luxury Mercedes-Benz paid for by a businessman parked in the Menendezes’ garage.
The charge sheet said that after the couple received the car, Mrs Menendez texted her husband to say: “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.”
In his remarks on Monday, Mr Menendez addressed his senatorial work related to Egypt, saying his record was clear in holding Cairo accountable for human rights.
Over the weekend, Democratic New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim announced he would run to replace Mr. Menendez, writing on social media that the state “deserves better”.
Mr Kim’s announcement was made amid a growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers who are calling on Mr Menendez to resign immediately.
In other developments, the Manhattan US Attorney’s office confirmed on Monday that Mr. Menendez has hired defense lawyer Abbe Lowell, who is also representing President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in an unrelated gun case.
This is not the first time that Mr Menendez – who has served in Congress since 2006 – has faced bribery charges.
In 2015 he was indicted in New Jersey on charges he had accepted bribes from a Florida eye doctor.
That case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
Mr Lowell represented Mr Menendez in that case.