Who is Bob Menendez, the New Jersey senator accused of corruption?

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, one of the most influential Democrats in Congress on foreign policy, is no stranger to landing in hot water.

On September 22, the 69-year-old was charged with corruption for the second time in a decade.

Manhattan prosecutors allege the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, had a “corrupt relationship” with New Jersey associates Fred Daibes, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe.

Authorities allege the pair accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for a range of methods, including delivering sensitive government information to Egypt and influencing criminal investigations.

Born in 1954 to Cuban immigrants in New York who had fled the island nation just a few months earlier, the future senator did not take long to join the political fray. At age 20, he was elected to the board of education in Union City, New Jersey.

He was then elected mayor of Union City, located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, serving from 1986 to 1992. For part of his term as mayor, he was also a member of the state general assembly before joining the state senate and then in the USA. House of Representatives in January 1993. He remained in the House until his appointment to the US Senate in 2006 to fill the seat vacated by newly elected Governor Jon Corzine.

Next, Representative Menendez of the House of Representatives walks with vice presidential candidate and North Carolina Senator John Edwards and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in July 2004

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He was elected to a full term in the Senate in November of that year and won re-election in 2012 and 2018. He is up for re-election again next year.

Mr. Menendez has been the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2013, except for a term between 2015 and 2018 when Maryland Senator Ben Cardin was the ranking member.

Facing calls for his resignation after the current indictment, Mr. Menendez strongly rejected allegations of wrongdoing in a statement, saying that “powers behind the scenes have repeatedly tried 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 by anonymous sources and innuendo to create an air of impropriety where none exists,” he added.

In 2015, he was charged by federal prosecutors in New Jersey with conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud in connection with allegations that he abused his power.

Prosecutors alleged at the time that Mr. Menendez accepted more than $600,000 in political contributions, a stay at the Park Hyatt in Paris and free flights on a private jet in exchange for favors. The 2017 trial ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked, according to CNN. The senator denied all the charges against him.

Then-Senator Barack Obama campaigns with Menendez in New Jersey before the 2006 midterm elections

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After the mistrial, a federal judge acquitted Mr. Menendez of many of the charges in 2018, and the Justice Department later dropped the rest.

In 2017, the senator made similar comments as he did on September 22, saying, “To those who dug my political grave to jump into my place, I know who you are and I will not forget you.”

Mr. Menendez has at times been a thorn in the side of both Democratic and Republican presidents over their foreign policy. More recently, he opposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey due to the country's reluctance to approve Sweden's NATO membership, human rights concerns and flights over Greek airspace.

“Sweden has not yet received a vote from Turkey even though [President Recep] Erdogan said, “Yes, OK, Sweden should be in.” He could call the parliament. He could have had the vote. He didn't have it,” he said in July, according to Reuters.

Regarding Greece, he asked: “How does it work for us to have one NATO ally be belligerent to another and have someone sell them F-16s?”

Despite helping Obama in the 2006 election campaign, Menendez endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in June 2007 before the 2008 primaries.

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The indictment issued Sept. 22 says authorities seized $100,000 worth of gold bullion and more than $480,000 in cash, stuffed in envelopes and clothing, hidden in closets, as well as in a safe at their home and bank.

During the search of the senator's home, agents allegedly found furniture from Mr. Hana and Mr. Daibes and a “luxury vehicle” paid for by Mr. Uribe, the legal filing said.

The associates also allegedly tried to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Mr. Menendez in order to create a “corrupt deal.” This would be in return for Mr. Menendez's violations of duties for the benefit of the Egyptian government, such as financial military support.

The senator and his wife face three charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official privilege.

Mr Daibes, Mr Hana and Mr Uribe face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.

Menendez arrives for a briefing on Ukraine at the US Capitol on September 20, 2023 in Washington, DC

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In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York said during a news conference that despite the senator's website saying he cannot interfere in investigations or improperly exercise his influence as a powerful elected official, “we support that behind the scenes, Senator Menendez did these things for certain people, the people who were bribing him and his wife.”

“The excesses of these prosecutors are obvious,” Mr. Menendez said in his statement. “They have misrepresented the normal work of a congressional office.”

“Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino from humble beginnings could become a US Senator and serve with honor and distinction,” he argued. “Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.”

“To my supporters, my friends and the community at large, I ask that you remember the other times prosecutors got it wrong and reserve your judgment. I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see just that,” he concluded.