Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has entered a plea of not guilty to his most recent indictment of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Egyptian government during an appearance in court on Oct. 23.
The plea hearing took place before U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confronted federal prosecutors’ accusations that he conspired to act as an unregistered foreign agent.
The lawmaker left the court without making any comments to the press.
In an unfolding legal battle, prosecutors allege that Mr. Menendez engaged in activities on behalf of Egyptian military and intelligence officials from 2018 to 2022.
The new indictment marks a significant development in the case against the New Jersey Democrat.
The superseding indictment was filed on Oct. 12 against Mr. Menendez in federal court in Manhattan, charging him with failing to register as required by the U.S. government as “an agent of a foreign principal.”
The case initially emerged when Mr. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were charged with accepting substantial amounts of cash and gold bars from three New Jersey businessmen.
In exchange, the prosecution alleged that Mr. Menendez used his influence to benefit the Egyptian government and interfered with law enforcement investigations involving the businessmen.
All defendants, including Ms. Menendez and one of the businessmen, Wael Hana, pleaded not guilty to these charges on Sept. 27. The new indictment extends the allegations to encompass unregistered foreign agent activities.
In a statement emailed to The Epoch Times, Mr. Menendez said: “The government’s latest charge flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and in challenging leaders of that country, including President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi, on these issues.
“I have been, throughout my life, loyal to only one country—the United States of America, the land my family chose to live in democracy and freedom.
“Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true. The facts haven’t changed; only a new charge. It is an attempt to wear someone down and I will not succumb to this tactic.
“I again ask people who know me and my record to give me the chance to present my defense and show my innocence.”
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, individuals are required to register if they act as “an agent of a foreign principal.”
Prosecutors have accused Mr. Hana of orchestrating meetings between Mr. Menendez and Egyptian officials, pressuring the senator to endorse military aid for Egypt.
In return, the businessman reportedly added Ms. Menendez to the payroll of a company under his control.
The latest indictment asserts that both Mr. Hana and Ms. Menendez conveyed requests and directives from Egyptian officials to Mr. Menendez, deepening the scrutiny over his alleged involvement with foreign governments.
The lawmaker has faced mounting pressure from fellow Democrats to resign as the unfolding legal proceedings continue to attract significant attention, raising questions about the senator’s political future and the potential implications of the new indictment.
The fresh accusation comes on the heels of a recent allegation that the Democrat and his wife accepted bribes of cash, gold bars, and a luxury car from three businessmen in exchange for the senator’s assistance and influence in foreign affairs.
The evidence found included substantial sums of cash, gold, a luxury vehicle, and home furnishings. More than $480,000 in cash, concealed in envelopes and hidden throughout the premises, was discovered, along with more than $70,000 in Ms. Menendez’s safe deposit box.
Mr. Menendez appeared in court on Sept. 27 and pleaded not guilty to bribery charges leveled at him on Sept. 22.
A defiant Mr. Menendez, who resigned as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee after being indicted in September, says that allegations that he abused his position to enrich himself are without merit.
He has said that he’s confident he’ll be cleared and has no plans to leave the Senate.
Mr. Menendez said during a Sept. 25 press briefing that the accusations leveled against him by prosecutors were categorically false and that the evidence found in his home was money kept on hand because of his family’s history with communism, and he asked for the presumption of innocence in his case.
“A cornerstone of the foundation of American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. All people,” Mr. Menendez told a group of reporters.
“I asked for nothing more—and deserve nothing less. The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system.”
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have called for Mr. Menendez to step down, with Mr. Booker saying in a Sept. 26 statement that although he considers his colleague an “intellectually gifted, tough, passionate, and deeply empathic” person, “the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core.”
“As senators, we operate in the public trust. That trust is essential to our ability to do our work and perform our duties for our constituents,” Mr. Booker said.
Mr. Durbin said in a statement posted on X: “Leaders in New Jersey, including the governor and my Senate colleague Cory Booker, have made it clear that Sen. Menendez can no longer serve. He should step down.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times