Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges that he accepted luxurious bribes to help enrich three New Jersey businessmen and benefit Egypt’s government, according to The Associated Press.
His wife, Nadine, also pleaded not guilty to the charges that allege the couple entered a “corrupt relationship” with the businessmen, accepting their “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in exchange for the New Jersey Democrat’s influence, AP reported.
Menendez and his wife entered the courthouse hand-in-hand Wednesday morning, shuffling through throngs of press and appearing not to answer any questions.
The three-count indictment was unsealed Friday in the Southern District of New York. It alleges Menendez used his “power and influence” as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advantage Egypt and reap benefits for Wael “Will” Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibe. In return, Menendez and his wife were given cash, gold bars, a luxury vehicle and more.
Hana pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the two counts he faces. He was released on bond after depositing $300,000 with the court and agreeing to surrender his passport, according to court filings. Uribe and Daibe also pleaded not guilty to two counts Wednesday.
Menendez and his wife face three counts, including conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, a charge for public officials who take bribes in return for official acts.
Since the charges were announced, nearly two dozen senators have called on Menendez to leave his Senate post — many of them Democrats. Menendez has forcefully refuted the “baseless” allegations against him and refused to leave Congress, though he did step down as chairman from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), a longtime Menendez friend and ally, said in a statement that Menendez’s choice to remain in Congress is a “mistake.”
Menendez faced federal corruption charges in 2015 for accepting gifts and trips from a donor, but those charges were dropped in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict.
The investigation into Menendez, his wife and the businessmen is “very much ongoing,” Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said last week.
Updated at 11:59 a.m. ET