NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors have rewritten their indictment against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife to charge them with conspiring to have him act as an agent of Egypt and Egyptian officials.
The superseding indictment, filed in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, accuses Menendez of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people to register with the U.S. government if they are acting as “an agent of a foreign principal.” As a member of Congress, Menendez was prohibited from being an agent of a foreign government, even if he did register as one.
Messages left with Menendez’s Senate staff and attorney on Thursday were not immediately answered.
The indictment says the conspiracy occurred from January 2018 to June 2022. It alleges that in May 2019, Menendez, his wife and a business associate, Wael Hana, met with an Egyptian intelligence official in Menendez’s Senate office in Washington. During the meeting, they discussed an American citizen who was seriously injured in a 2015 airstrike by the Egyptian military using a U.S.-made Apache helicopter, the indictment says.
Some members of Congress objected to awarding certain military aid to Egypt over that episode and the perception by certain lawmakers that the Egyptian government was not willing to fairly compensate the injured American citizen, according to the indictment.
Shortly after the meeting in Washington, the Egyptian official texted Hana that if Menendez helped resolve the matter, “he will sit very comfortably.” Hana replied: “Orders, consider it done,” the indictment says.
The new charge comes just weeks after the Democrat and his wife were accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who wanted the senator to help and influence over foreign affairs. The couple have pleaded not guilty.
Hana, the business associate, pleaded not guilty last month to charges including conspiracy to commit bribery.
In both the old and new indictments, prosecutor said Menendez, after meeting with an Egyptian official, lobbied then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to increase American engagement in stalled negotiations involving Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to build a dam over the Nile River, a key foreign policy issue for Egypt.
The indictments said that while Menendez was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he took several steps to secretly aid Egyptian officials. That included ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt.
He was also accused of passing along information about employees at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and transmitting nonpublic information to Egyptian officials about military aid.
Menendez, 69, has insisted that he did nothing unusual to assist Egypt and that prosecutors had misunderstood the work of a senator involved in foreign affairs. Authorities who searched Menendez’s home last year said they found more than $100,000 worth of gold bars and over $480,000 in cash — much of it hidden in closets, clothing and a safe.
The new charge against Menendez comes as more than 30 Senate Democrats — including his home state colleague, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker — have called on him to resign. Menendez has remained defiant, telling his colleagues in a closed-door luncheon two weeks ago that he will not leave the Senate.
Menendez has not said whether he will run for reelection next year. At least one Democrat, New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim, has already jumped into the primary, and the head of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, has called on Menendez to resign, signaling that he may not receive campaign assistance traditionally available to incumbents.