Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced additional charges against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, accusing them of conspiring to allow the senator to act as a foreign agent for Egypt.
The superseding indictment against Menendez, which accuses a U.S. senator of working on behalf of another country who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time of the alleged conduct, adds a new dimension to the case.
Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, were indicted last month on corruption-related crimes and accused of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” in exchange for influence in the Senate force.
Prosecutors allege the bribes included gold, cash, home mortgages, compensation for “low pay or absence from work” and a luxury car.
The senator stressed his loyalty to the United States in a statement on Thursday, saying the new charges ran counter to his “long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and challenging the country’s leaders.”
“Continuing to make new accusations does not prove the accusation is true. The facts have not changed, just new accusations. This is an attempt to tire someone out and I will not succumb to this tactic,” he continued. “I again ask those who know me and my record to give me the opportunity to defend myself and prove my innocence.”
Menendez and his wife have pleaded not guilty. A trial date has been set for May.
Menendez has rejected calls from fellow Democrats to resign but has not said whether he will run for re-election next year. The new charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If convicted, Menendez and his wife face up to 50 years in prison.
According to the alleged scheme, Menendez met with an Egyptian intelligence official, his wife and New Jersey businessman Wael Hana in his Senate office in 2019, where they discussed matters involving Egypt and a 2015 Human rights issues for U.S. citizens injured in air strikes in 2017. Some members of Congress believe Egypt has not provided fair compensation to Americans injured in the attack, leading them to oppose military aid to Egypt.
After the meeting, prosecutors said, Menendez searched for the names of the injured Americans and their statements. A week later, Egyptian officials texted Hana in Arabic, saying that if Menendez helped resolve the issue, “he would sit comfortably.” Hana responded: “Order, deemed complete.”
The next year, in March 2020, prosecutors accused Nadine Menendez of texting an Egyptian official, “Anytime you need anything, give me my phone number and we will Let it happen.” Days later, she arranged a meeting with Egyptian officials and senators to discuss negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Nile. Prosecutors say the dam’s construction is a major focus of Egypt’s foreign policy.
Prosecutors said Menendez wrote a letter to the U.S. Treasury and Secretary of State within a month “expressing my concerns about the impasse in the dam negotiations.” “Accordingly, I urge you to significantly increase the State Department’s involvement in negotiations surrounding (the dam),” the letter said.
Prosecutors claimed Menendez knew about the foreign agents law. It is illegal for a member of Congress or any public official to serve as a foreign agent. Prosecutors allege Nadine Menendez and Hana failed to register as agents working on behalf of Egypt and conspired to have Menendez act on Egypt’s behalf. Hana has previously pleaded not guilty.
In May 2022, Menendez sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland following up on an earlier request to prosecutors to investigate former Assemblyman David Rivera , alleging that he worked on behalf of a Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
Harner’s attorney, Lawrence Lusterberg, denied the new charges.
“The new allegation that Val Hana was part of a conspiracy hatched over the dinner to turn Senator Menendez into an agent of the Egyptian government is both ridiculous and false,” Lusterberg said. “With As with the other charges in this indictment, Mr. Harner will vigorously defend this new and baseless allegation.”
This story has been updated with additional details.