The senior senator from New Jersey and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was an illegal unregistered operative for the Egyptian government, an updated criminal complaint alleges.
The document, which prosecutors filed in Manhattan federal court Thursday morning, accuses Sen. Bob Menendez of acting not just on behalf of the businessmen who they say bribed him, but of the regime in Cairo itself. The superseding indictment marks a dramatic escalation of the severity of the corruption charges filed against Menendez, his wife, Nadine Arslanian, and three accomplices last month—and to which they have all pleaded not guilty.
Menendez, the Justice Department alleges, not only violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act by facilitating the flow of aid and information to the regime in exchange for bribes that ranged from cash to furniture to gold bars, but broke the Senate rules barring members from working for overseas interests. And like the initial iteration of the complaint, the new one uses Menendez’s own words—namely, letters he penned in 2020 urging the feds to investigate former GOP Rep. David Rivera for FARA-related crimes.
"The Act is clear that acting directly or indirectly in any capacity on behalf of a foreign principal triggers the requirement to register under FARA,” the senator wrote at the time.
Yet the prosecutors claim that Menendez was doing just that for his Egyptian benefactors.
The new charging documents include eye-bugging allegations that even the often-boggling original indictment did not include. They describe a 2019 meeting between Menendez, his wife, alleged co-conspirator and halal magnate Wael Hana, and an intelligence operative for Cairo in the senator’s office in which they discussed injuries a U.S. citizen received during a botched Egyptian airstrike using American-made helicopters that hit a tour group.
This crisis had led to several U.S. lawmakers freezing aid to the country. The indictment notes Menendez subsequently conducted web research on the victim and the incident, while the unnamed Egyptian official messaged Hana in Arabic promising that if the senator resolved the matter, "he will sit very comfortably.” Hana allegedly answered “orders, consider it done.” The official then advanced other materials to Hana that he forwarded to Menendez’s wife, and which she passed to her husband.
At that same May dinner, Hana and the Egyptian allegedly pressed Menendez to lean on the U.S. Department Agriculture, which was looking into Hana’s monopoly on the Egyptian meat import business. At that meeting, Menendez’s wife was allegedly so brazen as to inquire "what else can the love of my life do for you?"
The senator responded bitterly to the new allegations, highlighting his history of publicly criticizing the Egyptian government, and suggesting his own country’s authorities were attempting to cow him into pleading guilty.
“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 Democrat said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “It is an attempt to wear someone down and I will not succumb to this tactic.”
Hana’s lawyers answered with a similarly fierce denial.
“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,” they wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. “As with the other charges in this indictment, Mr. Hana will vigorously defend against this new and baseless allegation.”
Attorneys for Arslanian did not respond to a request for comment.
Editor’s note: Updated to include comment from Menendez.