Abbe Lowell, the attorney who defended the Democrat in his last bribery case and has more recently represented Hunter Biden, was not among the lawyers in the courtroom. That prior case ended in a mistrial, but the senator has admitted the current case against him—in which the feds reported uncovering envelopes of cash, a luxury vehicle, and even gold bars in his home that he allegedly traded his services for—represents a far tougher fight.
Nonetheless, the Democrat quietly pleaded not guilty before Judge Ona Wang, and agreed to put up a $100,000 personal bond, surrender his personal passport, and limit his contact with parties with knowledge of the case. The deal with the prosecution allows him to retain his government passport and to even travel abroad on official business, despite his stepping aside as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It is the power of that committee, and of his access and influence in New Jersey and federal politics, that the Justice Department alleges he sold not only to his American accomplices but to agents of the Egyptian government.
Nonetheless, the senator got off relatively easy compared to the other accused individuals who appeared before the bench with him. His wife, Nadine Arslanian, had to put up a quarter-million-dollar bond, surrender her travel documents, and limit her travel to New Jersey, D.C., New York City, and southern Florida.
Jose Uribe, an insurance salesman who prosecutors say paid down a Mercedes-Benz for the couple, had to put up $1 million in bail and agree to similar restrictions on his movement.
Property tycoon Fred Daibes, a local powerbroker The Daily Beast revealed was involved with the case last December, got out on $2 million in bail—but only because he has a $10 million federal bond in New Jersey, where he confessed to a bank fraud charge but still awaits sentencing. Should that case resolve, the $10 million sum will transfer over to New York.
Menendez allegedly sought to use his influence over the U.S. Attorney selection process to get a prosecutor appointed who would let Daibes off easily on the earlier charges. Daibes also allegedly partnered with Wael Hana to establish IS EG Halal, which the senator is accused of securing a monopoly on the Egyptian meat supply through his leverage over aid disbursements.
Hana appeared in court yesterday after returning from Egypt, and—like the others—pleaded not guilty.
More than a third of Democrat senators have now called on Menendez to step down but he has vowed to stay and fight the charges.
Despite a throng of reporters and protesters outside, the Menendez couple, Daibes, and Uribe left the courthouse without comment.