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Bob Menendez 'temporarily' steps down as chair of US Senate foreign relations cmte. over bribery charges

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has "temporarily" stepped down from his influential position after a federal indictment alleging years of bribery alongside his wife.

The bombshell indictment unsealed by Manhattan federal prosecutors on Friday accused Menendez, 69, of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for years, including bars of gold bullion, to exert his power abroad and at home.

"Today, I'm announcing that my office has obtained a three count indictment charging Senator Robert Menendez, his wife, Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes for bribery offenses," said US Attorney Damian Williams said at a press conference on Friday morning. 

The bribes ranged from gold, cash, payments toward a mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury car, and "other things of value."

The couple, the indictment said, accepted "hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using Menendez's power and influence as a senator to seek to protect and enrich Hana, Uribe, and Daibes and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt." 

Investigators said that they had found $480,000 in cash, some of it hidden in clothing, and more than $100,000 worth of gold bars at Menendez's home last year.

According to the indictment, Menendez and his wife "engaged in a corrupt relationship" with the three New Jersey businessmen from at least 2018 through 2022.

Furthermore, the veteran democrat was also accused of providing "sensitive US Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt."

Menendez, who has served in the Congress since 2006, is also the first sitting senator to be indicted on two unrelated criminal matters, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announces the indictment of NJ Senator Robert Menendez and his wife, Nadine, on corruption charges, on September 22, 2023. (Photo by The New York Times)

Following the indictment on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Menendez had for now stepped down from his position due to the charges.

"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," Schumer said.

Menendez and his wife, who now face three criminal counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, have denied the charges.

This is not the first time Menendez is accused of receiving bribes. Back in 2015, he was indicted in New Jersey over allegations he accepted bribes, including luxury vacations, from a well-off Florida eye doctor. That case ended in a mistrial as jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

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