Update (4:40pm ET): Democratic Senator Bob Menendez will step down from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following an indictment that was unsealed on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the move Friday afternoon.
Under Democratic Conference rules, a member in a leadership position or with a chair must resign if charged with a felony, but can be reinstated if the charges are cleared or dropped to a lesser charge.
“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial,” Schumer said in the statement.
“Senator Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”
Earlier on Friday, Menendez and his wife Nadine were indicted for allegedly accepting bribes in relation to corrupt relationship they had with three businessmen from their home state.
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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine have been indicted in New York for allegedly accepting bribes in relation to a corrupt relationship they had with three businessmen from their home state. The indictment also charges three businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.
"Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value," reads the indictment.
Daibes, a developer and former bank chairman, allegedly gave Menendez gold bars valued at approximately $400,000, in exchange for assistance in a case in which he faced federal bank charges.
Instead of facing over 10 years in prison, Daibes, a felon, only ended up serving probation after striking an agreement with the US Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
"For purposes of the Federal Extortion Act, it makes no difference if the senator took an official act so long as he accepted the money and there was knowledge the money was in exchange for that official influence, even if he never carried out what he had promised he would do," according to NBC Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos.
Menendez disclosed that his family had accepted gold bars in 2020. Daibes encountered bank fraud charges that could have netted him up to a decade in prison for lying about a nearly $2 million loan from Mariner's Bank, where Daibes served as chairman.
Last year, however, New Jersey's U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to let Daibes plead guilty to one count and serve probation. They said Daibes had repaid the loan. -Fox News
According to the report, Menendez, 69, is 'close' with US Attorney Philip Sellinger - having supported him for the position, while Sellinger had previously raised funds for Menendez's campaign.
Officials are also looking at whether Menendez, the former Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or his wife, had improperly received gifts from a New Jersey food processor who obtained an exclusive contract with the Egyptian government to certify halal food experts around the world.
Egyptian officials and the New Jersey businessman who received the contract were hosted by Menendez in his office in 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal. A year later, the businessman became the "sole certifier of halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt," the outlet noted.
NBC News 4 said the gifts included the usage of a Mercedes and a luxury Washington, D.C., apartment. Investigators are attempting to resolve if Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used his standing to help the man secure the contract. -Fox News
According to the indictment, Menendez provided 'sensitive US Government information to Egypt.'
Indictment says this info wasn't classified, but was "highly sensitive." And it was shared very shortly after Menendez allegedly sought it. pic.twitter.com/GQPqXdLgYB— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 22, 2023
Menendez and his wife are charged with three counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
In June of last year, federal agents searched Menendez's New Jersey home, where they found "fruits" of the pair's "corrupt bribery agreement" with the three businessman - including over $480,000 in cash, some of which was stuffed in envelopes, and $70,000 in Nadine Menendez's safe deposit box.
They also found gold bars worth over $100,000, "provided by either Hana or Daibes."
In the months before his office admitted he was under federal investigation, Menendez's wife sold up to $400,000 in gold bars between April 7, 2022 and June 16, 2022.
A press event will be held today at 11:00 a.m. to announce the unsealing of an indictment charging Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, with bribery offenses in connection with their corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen. pic.twitter.com/CLTXnU0mAm— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) September 22, 2023
If we’ve learned anything from DOJ this year, it’s that if you’re going to take gold or diamonds from foreigners in exchange for official acts, your last name had better be Biden.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 22, 2023