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‘Gold bar’ Bob Menendez tears up as he defends his ’50 years of public service’ as senator, denies being a foreign agent and attacks prosecutors’ ‘sensational’ indictment over a bribery scheme involving Qatar and Egypt

By Emily Goodin, Senior U.S. Political Reporter

17:37 09 Jan 2024, updated 18:34 09 Jan 2024

  • ‘I’m innocent, and I intend to prove my innocence,’ Menendez said
  • He said indictment keeps ‘the sensational story in the press, it poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion’
  • He and wife Nadine have pleaded not guilty to three federal charges

Senator Bob Menendez blasted federal prosecutors for ‘persecuting’ him with ‘sensational’ charges, denied being a foreign agent and warned lawmakers they could be next in a bizarre diatribe on Senate floor on Tuesday.

‘I’m innocent, and I intend to prove my innocence, not just for me, but for the precedent this case will sit for you and future members of the Senate,’ he said in nearly a 20-minute speech.

The Democratic senator from New Jersey faces bribery and corruption charges, including using his position to enrich the government of Egypt and for accepting fancy wrist watches and other lavish gifts from a businessman to benefit Qatar.

He tackled the charges against him head-on Tuesday, arguing there was no evidence of gold bars, accusing prosecutors of trying to ‘poison the jury pool’ against him, and, at one point, tearing up as he talked about his time in the government.

‘After 50 years of public service, this is not how I wanted to celebrate my golden jubilee,’ he said, choking back tears. ‘But I have never violated the public trust.’

Senator Bob Menendez took to the Senate floor on Monday to passionately defend himself against corruption charges and warn colleagues they could be next

Menendez, from when the indictment was first revealed in September, has resisted pressure to resign from office. 

The charges against resulted in a raid on his New Jersey home and was filled with an array of colorful details, including thousands of dollars worth of gold bars, cash stuffed in Menendez’s clothes, and text messages about a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000.

He and his wife Nadine face three federal charges each tied to bribery, conspiracy and extortion. They have pleaded not guilty.

The senator has hit back hard from the beginning and, on Monday, took his defense to a new level with his impassioned floors speech where he went heavily on the attack and accused prosecutors of wanting ‘victory, not justice.’

‘By filing three indictments,’ he said, ‘it allows the government to keep the sensational story in the press, it poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion.’

‘The United States attorneys office is not engaged in a prosecution, but a persecution. They seek a victory, not justice.’

Much of his speech appeared to be directed toward his colleagues in the Senate. He argued his actions were in line with his duties as a senator and warned his colleagues the charges could have a ‘chilling affect’ on all of their work.

‘The sky’s the limit if they want to pursue you,’ Menendez said, adding ‘what a chilling effect on the mere engagement of these conversations and inquiries would it be.’

He also slammed his colleagues who have called for his resignation, making it clear he was going no where.

‘I am, however, alarmed that the greatest and most ardent defenders of the Constitution in this body are among the most vociferous and calling for my resignation,’ he said.

‘I will not step aside and allow those things to happen in the name of political expediency. I have never chosen the easy path, never have, never will and will not do so now.’

Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and his wife Nadine Menendez arrive at Federal Court for a hearing on bribery charges in connection with an alleged corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen
Two of the gold bars found during a search by federal agents of Sen. Bob Menendez’s home and safe deposit box

In September, after the indictment was first revealed, Menendez gave up his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But he has resisted calls for him to resign from his Senate seat. 

Last week Menendez was hit with more allegations, this time for accepting gifts from an American businessman to benefit the Qatari government.

Federal prosecutors accused him and his wife Nadine Menendez of accepting fancy watches and other plush gifts in a bribery conspiracy while he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He was specifically accused of receiving several gold bars and cash from real estate developer Fred Daibes as a reward for helping him secure a deal with a major Qatari investment fund. 

‘I have received nothing absolutely nothing from the Government of Qatar or on behalf of the Government of Qatar to promote their image or their issues,’ Menendez said on Monday. 

Prosecutors also claim the embattled senator made public statements praising the Gulf nation while the deal was being negotiated.

There was no suggestion in the indictment that Qatar itself had any knowledge of bribes Daibes was allegedly giving to Menendez.

In his speech on the Senate floor, Menendez denied there were any gold bars and suggested they were ‘sensational’ details leaked by prosecutors to get press attention in the case.

‘There are allegations of cash and gold bars. The problem is, is that there is no evidence of the giving or receiving of cash and gold bars. In fact, there has been and will be a trial, a full explanation of what is the truth about those issues – a truth that proves I am entirely innocent of the charges,’ he said.

‘And that is the problem. Almost everyone, including my friends in the press who have reported on it, haven’t read the indictment. They’ve only taken the government’s sensational narrative of what these accusations are as truth. They haven’t saw the facts of the allegations.’

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Arslanian arrive for a state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House in December 2022; the couple has been charged on three criminal counts related to bribery and extortion
Fred Daibes, one of three businessmen named as co-defendants with Sen. Bob Menendez, arrives at federal court, Sept. 27, 2023, in New Yor

The wrist watches allegedly offered to Menendez were valued between $10,000 and $24,000, according to the indictment. 

‘How about one of these,’ co-defendant Fred Daibes is quoted as saying in the indictment, along with photos of the watches. 

Daibes, 66, a developer, is also accused of bribing Menendez with gold bars and envelopes stuffed with dollar bills. 

Menendez and Daibes attended a Qatari event in Manhattan together in September 2021, according to the indictment. 

Two days later, Daibes allegedly texted Menendez about a Senate resolution supportive of Qatar, just as the Qatari Investment Company considered the real estate investment with Daibes.

In May 2022, a Qatari official had offered a ‘relative’ of Menendez’s wife Nadine tickets to the Formula One Grand Prix in Florida, prosecutors said. 

The senator said lawmakers often attend state-sponsored events. 

‘They show a picture of watches but no proof of receiving any such gift. They talk about tickets to a state sponsored event but as we all know members of the Senate often attend state sponsored events,’ Menendez argued.

Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine arrive for a reception in the East Room of the White House on May 16, 2022

The senator also was charged in September with taking cash, gold bars and gifts including a Mercedes Benz from three entrepreneurs, in exchange for using his ‘power and influence’ to help them.

Menendez’s home was raided when the charges were announced.

In that June 2022 raid, investigators found $486,461 in cash stuffed in envelopes and in the pockets of jackets with Menendez’ name on them. They also found two one-kilogram gold bars and eleven one-ounce gold bars worth $110,000. 

Prosecutors also allege that businessman bought Menendez and his wife a luxury car. 

He and his wife Nadine face three criminal counts each: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. 

When the new allegations were revealed last week, no new charges were added to the indictment.

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