By Allan Lengel
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez barked back Monday in response to a federal bribery indictment, insisting the nearly $500,000 in cash FBI agents found during a raid at his home in June 2022 was all legit.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation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,” Mendez said during a press conference. “Now 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.”
Interestingly, the Justice Department, in issuing the indictment Friday, alleged that some of the envelopes of cash found in his home contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of his driver or Fred Daibes, one of three businessmen charged in the indictment with bribing the 69-year-old senator.
Banks are required to keep records for at least five years.
The powerful senator and his wife Nadine Menendez, 56, and three New Jersey businessmen have been indicted on bribery charges.
Authorities charged that the Menendez couple received gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash while the senator used his powerful position to secretly benefit businessmen and the Egyptian government by providing sensitive information and helping in other matters.
Specifically, a grand jury charged that between 2018 and 2022, Sen. Menendez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value. The five are scheduled to make an initial appearance in a New York federal court on Wednesday.
At his Monday press conference, he went on to say:
“The allegations leveled against me are just that, allegations… The court of public opinion is no substitute for our justice system. Prosecutors get it wrong sometimes. Sadly, I know that. …Others have rushed to judgement because they see a political opportunity. All I ask for… is to pause and allow for all the facts to be presented.”
He did not address the bars of gold or Mercedes authorities allege was part of the bribery scheme.
Menendez has faced federal bribery charges. But in 2017, the jury deadlocked. In early 2018, the Justice Department decided not to pursue the case. It was shortly after that, Menendez met his wife-to-be, who introduced him to businessmen who are accused of bribing the couple.