Rep. Rob Menendez, a first-term Democratic congressman representing New Jersey’s 8th congressional district, announced his re-election bid Monday, just three days after his father, longtime Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s indictment on federal bribery and corruption charges was unsealed.
“I love this district and its people with every fiber of my being,” the younger Menendez said in a statement. “I am focused on working every single day to represent my neighbors to the best of my ability. And I will be running for re-election based on that record, so I can continue to serve the residents of this district that I love, in stark contrast to those who may run to further their own naked political ambition.”
The freshman congressman, whose district includes Hudson County, where the Menendez family harnessed their power at the start of his father’s political career 50 years ago, said Friday that he had “unwavering confidence” in Sen. Menendez, and looks forward to moving past “this distraction,” according to the New Jersey Globe.
Rep. Menendez has stood by his father, despite a number of New Jersey Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy and House members, demanding the long-time senator’s resignation.
At a news conference Monday, Sen. Menendez vowed he would be exonerated in his latest federal indictment, defended his political record on Egypt and claimed that the hundreds of thousands in cash the FBI is said to have found at his and his wife’s New Jersey home was withdrawn from his personal saving account, which he said he “kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba.”
“I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Sen. Menendez said Monday, refusing to resign. “Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes. Sadly, I know that.”
Hudson County is where Sen. Menendez grew up and launched his political career as a 20-year-old school board member. Mayor Ravi Bhalla of Hoboken – which is in Hudson County – said he was weighing a potential primary run against the younger Menendez.
The news conference at Hudson County Community College in Union City, New Jersey, marked Sen. Menendez’s first public appearance since his federal indictment was unsealed in the Southern District of New York on Friday. It charges Menendez, his wife, Nadine, and New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes in participating in a years-long bribery scheme. Since 2018, as alleged by federal prosecutors, the three businessmen collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes-Benz, and other things of value in exchange for Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich them and to benefit the government of Egypt.
The indictment accuses Menendez of improperly pressuring an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to seek to protect a business monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt. The senator is also accused of taking actions seeking to disrupt a criminal investigation related to Uribe and his associates.
Federal prosecutors say Menendez recommended that President Biden nominate a U.S. Attorney who the senator believed he could influence with respect to Daibes and sought to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution of Daibes undertaken by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
In June 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at Menendez’s New Jersey home where federal agents observed what prosecutors say are many of the fruits of the alleged bribery scheme, including cash, gold, the luxury convertible, and home furnishings. Prosecutors say $480,000 in cash, much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe, was discovered in the home, as well as over $70,000 in cash in Nadine’s safe deposit box. Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of Daibes or his driver, according to the indictment.
Other envelopes were found inside jackets bearing Menendez name and hanging in his closet. Prosecutors released photos showing bars of the Egyptian gold, stacks of cash and the Mercedes-Benz convertible found at the house. Menendez, who stepped down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, has reportedly since hired attorney Abbe Lowell, who is also defending Hunter Biden against gun charges amid the Justice Department’s years-long tax evasion probe.