Federal prosecutors filed a new criminal charge against Sen. Bob Menendez on Thursday that accuses him of conspiring to use his office to operate on behalf of Egyptian officials without registering as a foreign agent.
The fourth charge against the New Jersey Democrat and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was added in a superseding indictment filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
After the initial indictment last month, Menendez rejected calls for him to resign from the state’s governor and from more than half the Democrats in the Senate, including his New Jersey colleague, Cory Booker. He has dismissed the charges and said he would be exonerated.
Along with his wife, Nadine Menendez, and associate Wael Hana, the senator is accused of conspiring to use his position to help the Egyptian officials without registering as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is designed to prevent covert influence by foreign principals.
Menendez and his wife already faced federal bribery charges, with prosecutors alleging the senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from businessmen in exchange for “using his power and influence, to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”
Menendez in a statement called the additional charge an attempt to wear him down and maintained his innocence. “Piling new charge upon new charge does not make the allegations true,” Menendez said. “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.”
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 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.”
Hana’s attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said in a statement that Hana will “vigorously defend against this new and baseless allegation.”
“The new allegation that Wael Hana was part of a plot concocted over dinner to enlist Senator Menendez as an agent of the Egyptian Government is as absurd as it is false,” Lustberg said.
The new indictment states that, starting in 2018, Nadine Menendez had meetings and direct contacts with Egyptian officials, some of whom she knew as intelligence officials, and conveyed their requests to the senator.
The senator, his wife and Hana met with an Egyptian intelligence official on May 21, 2019, in his Hart Senate office, where they talked about resolving a claim involving serious injuries endured by an American citizen who was injured by an Egyptian military airstrike in 2015, the indictment states.
That strike had used a U.S.-manufactured Apache helicopter, which led some lawmakers in Congress to raise objections to giving some military aid to Egypt because of their perception that Egypt was not willing to provide fair compensation for the attack.
After meeting with the Egyptian intelligence official, the senator looked up the wounded American and visited a website with an article about the claim.
Around a week later, the Egyptian intelligence official texted Hana in Arabic, writing in part that Bob Menendez, who has sway on allowing military aid to Egypt, helped resolve the matter, the indictment states.
In that May 2019 meeting, the senator was also asked to counter the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s objections to a monopoly that Hana’s company, IS EG Halal, had on the certification of American food exports to Egypt that are halal compliant, the indictment states.
This monopoly increased costs for U.S. meat producers around the time of that meeting, prosecutors said in the indictment.
That night, the group and an Egyptian-American associate of Hana met for dinner at a D.C. steakhouse in which Nadine Menendez said, “what else can the love of my life do for you?” the indictment states. The superseding indictment shows a photo of the group at dinner.
On May 23, 2019, Menendez called a high-ranking USDA official and insisted that the USDA stop opposing IS EG Halal’s status as the sole halal certifier.
Prosecutors also accuse Menendez of sharing sensitive nonpublic information with Cairo. That includes a May 6, 2018, meeting with Hana and Nadine Menendez in which the senator sought out highly sensitive information from the State Department on the number and nationality of people working at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the indictment states.
The next day, the senator texted that information to his wife who forwarded it to Hana who then forwarded it to an Egyptian government official, according to the indictment. At a dinner Hana hosted that same month, the senator gave Hana nonpublic information on U.S. military aid to Egypt.
The indictment states that afterward, Hana texted an Egyptian official: “The ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted. That means sales can begin. That will include sniper rifles among other articles.”
The indictment points out that Menendez made multiple requests to the Justice Department to investigate a former member of Congress for failing to register under FARA.
In May 2022, Menendez sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to request a review of whether a former Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., violated the FARA law by working as a consultant for the Venezuelan government of dictator Nicolas Maduro and the country’s oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.
“If Mr. Rivera carried out work that requires registration under FARA, it is imperative that the Justice Department ensure he is held to account,” that letter states.
In a 2020 letter to the Justice Department on the same issue, Menendez said the law is “clear that acting directly or indirectly in any capacity on behalf of a foreign principal triggers the requirement to register under FARA.”
He also highlighted why registering is important to the national security of the U.S.: “When foreign agents fail to register under FARA, their activities on behalf of foreign powers are hidden from public view, obscuring potential threats to U.S. national security.”