After U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife were indicted for a bribery scheme in which they allegedly traded the senator’s power and connections for cash, gold bars, home furnishings, and a luxury car — among other “payments” — he broke his silence on the charges.
In a written statement released on Friday, Menendez claimed that, “[f]or years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave. Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists,” Menendez insisted.
Notably, the indictment against Menendez unsealed on Friday included photos of cash-filled envelopes stuffed into jackets bearing Menendez’s name, and some of the envelopes were found to contain the fingerprints or DNA of one of the co-defendants accused or bribing the senior senator from New Jersey who serves as chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee — quite an “air of impropriety,” allegedly.
Menendez’s statement continues, saying the “excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office,” the senator claims. “On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.”
Not for nothing, what Menendez is accused of doing is — as the federal indictment pointed out — in direct contradiction of what Menendez’s official congressional website says his office can and cannot do. What’s more, the relationships and alleged bribes at issue involving Mrs. Menendez took place between 2018 and 2022, a timeframe in which the two were dating and subsequently married.
“Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction,” Menendez’s statement said, laying on the identity politics awfully thick. “Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.”
Addressing his last indictment on federal corruption charges that ended in a mistrial in 2017 — shortly before he allegedly started up the bribery scheme he’s now been charged with — Menendez said he was “falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent.” Never mind, apparently, that a mistrial is not an exoneration.
Saying he “will not be distracted by baseless allegations,” Menendez pledged to continue his “important work,” presumably not including providing sensitive non-public information as he is alleged to have done by providing U.S. Government information to Egypt.
Addressing “supporters, friends and the community at large,” Menendez asked them to “recall the other times the prosecutors got it wrong and that you reserve judgement.” Claiming he is “confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented.”
Despite Menendez’s defiant statement that he’s going to continue his work and won’t be distracted from it, such a decision is not necessarily up to him. According to a report on MSNBC, the Senate rules state that members under indictment are ineligible to chair committees.
NEW: Sen. Bob Menendez will step down from his role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 22, 2023
That means Menendez will be required to step down from his powerful post as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee that, in part at least, allegedly allowed him to enrich himself via the bribery scheme laid out in the indictment against him. That rule gives Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cover and an escape route from having to make what is the obvious and right decision of removing Menendez from a committee post that gave him important and sensitive information he’s now accused of trafficking in for his own personal financial gain until the case plays out.
Already, however, even some in the leftist mainstream media have spoken out against Menendez and pointed out that this might be a “fool me once…” situation for some of those Menendez might expect to defend him.
Senator Menendez hasn’t been invited on my show since his 1st indictment because I agreed with jurors in his hung jury that he was guilty & the Ethics Committee finding that he violated federal law. Democrats & news media shouldn’t have normalized him & forgotten his corruption.
— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) September 22, 2023