• Friday, May 24, 2024
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US Senate chairman on foreign relations resigns over bribery allegation

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Bob Menendez, the US Senate’s chairman of foreign relations has stepped down after his indictment in a bribery case.

As he fights the bribery allegations, Menendez temporarily resigned from his position as chair of the influential foreign relations committee of the chamber, BBC News reported Saturday.

The senator has refuted the accusations.

Democrats in the senator’s home state of New Jersey have urged him to resign, but he has refused their requests.

Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate majority, announced on Friday that Mr. Menendez had opted to resign from his position as head of the powerful committee “until the matter has been resolved.”

The New York Democrat described his colleague as “a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey”.

The 69-year-old who has been a member of Congress since 2006, has had to resign from the coveted position on the foreign relations panel before.

He resigned in 2015 as well after being charged in New Jersey with accepting bribes from a Florida eye doctor. The jury in that case was unable to agree on a verdict, resulting in a mistrial.

The committee’s top Democrat at the time, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, is anticipated to temporarily take the reins to fill the position once more.

Three New Jersey businessmen are accused of offering Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, bribes in the form of money, gold, mortgage payments, and a high-end car.

The two allegedly accepted the funds in order to discreetly benefit the Egyptian government and enrich Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes.

The 39-page indictment, which was unveiled on Friday, claims that Mr. Menendez’s influence-peddling was made possible by his leadership role and power as a senator.

Three criminal charges—conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under colour of official authority — are brought against each of the two parties.

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Mrs Menendez said she would defend herself in court and denied any misconduct in a statement sent by her attorneys.

Mr. Menendez attempted to paint the accusations as being motivated by politics.

“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” he said in a lengthy statement.

“Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”

“I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see this for what it is,” he added.

However, a number of prominent Democrats, including at least four Congressmen from New Jersey, demanded the resignation of the representative.

The charges, according to Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, are “so serious that they compromise Senator Menendez’s ability to effectively represent the people of our state.”

Therefore, he wrote, “I am requesting his immediate resignation.”

According to New Jersey law, the governor would name a temporary successor to fill out the remainder of Mr. Menendez’s tenure if he resigned from the Senate.

The Democrats in the Senate, which they control by a one-seat margin, may experience difficulties if there is any delay between the resignation and the temporary appointment.

Menendez is a crucial ally of the White House in foreign policy, but they have so far refrained from commenting.

He stated in a statement on Friday, Mr Menendez vowed: “I am not going anywhere.”
His indictment comes after a years-long justice department investigation.

In the summer of 2022, federal agents executed search warrants at Mr Menendez’s home and found evidence of the bribery agreements, including over $480,000 (£390,000) in cash, much of which was “stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe”, prosecutors allege.

Agents said they also found a Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicle paid for by Mr Uribe parked in the garage, as well as $100,000 of gold bars in the home, pictures of which were included in the indictment.

The BBC has reached out to businesses owned by Mr Daibes for comment. The Embassy of Egypt in Washington DC did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Menendez, his wife and their three co-defendants are scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on 27 September.