Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) faces a new charge of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt, less than a month after the New Jersey Democrat was hit with federal charges of accepting luxurious bribes in exchange for his political influence.
Menendez is accused of conspiring with his wife, Nadine Arslanian, and New Jersey businessman Wael “Will” Hana to act as an agent of the Egyptian government between January 2018 and June 2022, according to a superseding indictment filed Thursday.
“Among other actions, Menendez provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt,” the indictment reads.
As a member of Congress, Menendez is prohibited by law from agreeing to be or acting as a foreign agent — even as registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring any person acting in the U.S. as an “agent of a foreign principal” to register with the U.S. attorney general.
The law is meant to prevent covert influence by other countries. Neither Menendez’ wife nor Hana were registered under the act, the indictment says.
Between 2020 and 2022, Menendez allegedly made multiple requests for the Justice Department to investigate others for failing to register under FARA, including an unnamed ex-member of Congress.
“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,” Menendez wrote in a 2020 letter to the DOJ regarding the ex-congressman, according to the indictment.
In a second letter, sent in 2022, Menendez said “it is imperative that the Justice Department ensure he is held to account,” the indictment reads.
The New Jersey Democrat has pleaded not guilty to three other federal charges that he accepted luxurious bribes to help enrich Hana and two other New Jersey businessmen and benefit Egypt’s government. The bribes included “cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other things of value,” according to the indictment.
His wife has also pleaded not guilty to the other three charges alleging the couple entered a “corrupt relationship” with the businessmen, accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in exchange for Menendez’s influence.
Larry Lustberg, an attorney for Hana, called the new charge “baseless.”
“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,” Lustberg said.
Menendez has vigorously refuted what he’s described as baseless allegations against him and refused to leave Congress, despite the urgings of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), a longtime friend and ally, said last month that Menendez’s choice to remain in Congress is a “mistake.”
Menendez stepped down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as is required by the Senate Democrats’ caucus rules.
The indictment alleges Menendez wielded his power as chairman of the committee to benefit the businessmen and the Egyptian government. In one such instance, Menendez requested nonpublic information — not classified, but “deemed highly sensitive” — from the State Department about people serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. He passed that information to then-girlfriend Nadine Arslanian, who shared it with Hana, who then sent it to an Egyptian government official.
He also sought to disrupt a criminal investigation by the state’s attorney general’s office into Jose Uribe, the second businessman, and to influence the prosecution of Fred Daibes, the third businessman, according to the indictment.
Menedez previously 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.
Updated at 6:20 p.m.