Bob Menendez resigned as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Democrat made the decision after being formally accused of bribery. Despite the request of many Democrats for him to resign from his seat, the senator would not do so. However, he chose to step aside from one of the most powerful committees in the Senate.
The federal charges came after a year of investigation by Southern District of New York Attorney Damian Williams.
"A press event will be held today to announce the opening of a formal accusation that accuses Robert Menendez, U.S. senator from New Jersey, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of bribery charges in connection with their corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen", explained the Department of Justice Office for the Southern District of New York.
Federal prosecutors said the FBI executed a search warrant on Senator Bob Menendez’s home and found $500,000 in cash stuffed in envelopes in the senator’s closet, including his jackets pockets. pic.twitter.com/ze4zdQWHTV
— Stephanie Myers (@_StephanieMyers) September 22, 2023
This formal accusation led the Democratic senator to resign from the Committee, which he chaired intermittently for a total of four years, first from 2013 to 2015 and then from 2021 to 2023. His decision is in line with the rules of the Senate Democratic Conference, which establish that a member in a position of leadership or chairmanship of any committee should resign if charged with a serious crime. In turn, he can be reinstated if the charges are cleared or reduced to a misdemeanor.
"Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has the right to due process and a fair trial," Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
"Senator Menendez has decided, rightly, to temporarily resign from his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter is resolved," added the majority leader. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is expected to temporarily replace his colleague.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is calling on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign immediately after he and his wife were indicted on bribery charges. According to the indictment, prosecutors found cash stuffed in a jacket bearing his name and gold bars wrapped in paper towels. pic.twitter.com/M6Wb0A9d5m
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) September 22, 2023
What is Bob Menendez accused of?
The Democratic senator faces three different charges: conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official law, another for public officials accepting bribes in exchange for official acts and a third that links the bribes to the work of the committee.
As previously reported by Voz Media, the problem is the following: the authorities allege that both he and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted gifts from the company IS EG Halal in exchange for it facilitating a tender with the Egyptian government to certify Halal meat. Basically, a traditional quid pro quo.
Doubts began to be sown after the company won the bid. Department of Agriculture officials complained that they did not have previous experience in the field to have obtained the contract merely based on his resume.
It all started in 2019, when IS EG Halal won an exclusive contract with the Egyptian government to certify Halal meat exports worldwide. The government dismissed seven companies with experience in the industry, handing over millions of dollars to a company run by a Christian with very little experience in Islamic certification of international meat imports and exports.
For Peter Paradis, former USDA deputy inspector general, this contract change "defies logic." USDA reports prior to the contract change suggested that IS EG Halal "has no pre-existing relationship with the U.S. beef industry or Islamic organizations."
“This corporation does not have a history of making this type of certification and, however, the country in question designates them as the only entity to carry out that task,” Paradis stated at the time.