Senator Robert Menendez, who was already facing a slew of bribery charges, was hit with a raft of new accusations on Thursday, with federal prosecutors alleging that the New Jersey Democrat and former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had accepted bribes from a foreign government and acted as a foreign agent.
Things already looked pretty bad for the New Jersey Democratic senator, to be fair. Last month, Menendez and his wife were charged in a sweeping indictment and accused of multiple bribery counts. The pair were accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and a car (seriously) in exchange for Menendez—who was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he was forced to resign in September after being charged—“agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”
Still, Menendez had two things going for him. One was that he had previously gotten away with corruption charges. Way back in 2017—a year before the scheme he is currently charged for is alleged to have begun—jurors were unable to reach a verdict on charges including conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud. Menendez, who had then been in the Senate for more than a decade, insisted then that the charges were related to a simple misunderstanding: Menendez and the man who was accused of bribing him were simply friends who enjoyed exchanging gifts and favors.
The other is that the current conservative-led Supreme Court has shown again and again that it does not care about corruption. The charges Menendez was facing were beyond the pale—he and his wife had over $400,000 in cash stashed in their home, along with several gold bars—but this court has consistently been skeptical of all but the most overt bribery and corruption charges. Menendez still had a chance, in other words.
But with Thursday’s charges, that seems to have all but evaporated. A new indictment filed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan on Thursday claims that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.” According to prosecutors, Menendez’s wife and a New Jersey businessman “worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement.” As part of this agreement, businessmen with ties to Egypt “provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to Menendez and Nadine Menendez, in exchange for Menendez’s acts and breaches of duty to benefit the government of Egypt, [businessman Wael] Hana, and others, including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing,” according to prosecutors.
That’s bad! It’s also, unlike more humdrum corruption, not the kind of thing the Supreme Court bats an eye at. Menendez is stubbornly refusing to resign—and is even suggesting that he might run for reelection in 2024. But the latest charges show that he’s in even bigger trouble than before—and that Democrats need to find a way to push him out quickly.