Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on Monday denounced efforts to prosecute him on federal bribery charges, saying he withdrew piles of cash that federal agents found at his home and say link him to the crimes â because he is the son of Cuban immigrants.
âFor 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,â Menendez, 69, said at a press conference in his hometown of Union City.
âNow this may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.â
Menendez ducked out immediately after he made remarks in English and Spanish, ignoring shouted questions from the approximately 50 reporters in the room.
The twice-indicted senator was hit with three counts of accepting $486,461 in cash bribes, as well as 13 gold bars worth more than $150,000 and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, according to a Manhattan federal indictment unsealed Friday.
The money, which was found âstuffed in envelopesâ and âhidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,â was allegedly taken âto protect and to enrichâ three wealthy New Jersey businessmen and âto benefit the government of Egypt,â the indictment states.
If convicted on all counts, Menendez faces up to 45 years in prison.
The Garden State Democrat was indicted in 2015 for allegedly taking improper gifts from a Florida eye surgeon, but that prosecution ended in a hung jury two years later.
âThe allegations leveled against me are just that â allegations,â Menendez told reporters on Monday at Hudson County Community College. âFor anyone who has known me throughout my 50 years of public service, they know I have always fought for what is right.â
âMy advocacy has always been grounded in what I learned from growing up as a son of Cuban refugees, especially my mom, my hero, Evangelina Menendez,â he went on. âEverything Iâve accomplished Iâve worked for, despite the naysayers and everyone who has underestimated me.â
âI recognize this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jerseyâs senior senator.â
Menendez was indicted alongside his wife, Nadine, over what prosecutors called a âcorrupt relationshipâ he had from 2018 to 2022 with businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, and the nation of Egypt, according to federal prosecutors.
Federal agents raided the senatorâs Englewood Cliffs home in June 2022 and found âthe fruitsâ of that âcorrupt bribery agreementâ â and also discovered Menendez made questionable internet searches for a âkilo of gold price.â
His wife also stashed $70,000 in cash in a safe deposit box.
Menendez has further been accused of meddling in a separate criminal case involving Daibes by urging President Biden to pick Philip Sellinger as the US Attorney for New Jersey to oversee that prosecution, prosecutors say.
Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said at a press conference on Friday that Menendez had also used his âpower and influenceâ on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to âaid the government of Egypt.â
The actions contradict Menendezâs pledge as a member of Congress â stated clearly on his Senate website â that âhe cannot compel an agency to act in someoneâs favor, âcannot influence matters involving a private businessâ and âcannot get involved in criminal matters, or cases, period,â Williams said.
âBut we allege behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people, the people who were bribing him and his wife,â Williams added, before saying that the federal probe was âvery much ongoing.â
Menendez at his Monday presser urged others to presume his innocence until proven guilty, saying the indictment was âbased on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be as salacious as possible.â
âRemember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes,â he also said at his press conference. âSadly, I know that instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to judgment because they see a political opportunity for themselves or those around them.
“All I humbly ask for in this moment, from my colleagues in Congress and those I have worked with for years, as well as each person who calls New Jersey home, is to pause and allow all the facts to be presented.”
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