Democratic Sen. Menendez says cash found in home was not bribe proceeds

Analysis on Litigation

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey defiantly pushed back against federal corruption charges on Monday, saying nearly half a million dollars in cash authorities found in his home was from his personal savings, not from bribes, and was on hand for emergencies.

Rejecting rising calls for him to resign, the influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he believed he’d be cleared of charges that he took cash and gold in illegal exchange for helping Egypt and New Jersey business associates.

“I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, but as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator,” Menendez said at Hudson County Community College’s campus in Union City, where he grew up. He did not respond to questions and did not say whether he would seek reelection next year.

Addressing allegations in the indictment unsealed Friday that authorities found cash stuffed in envelopes and clothing at his home, Menendez said that stemmed from his parents’ fear of confiscation of funds from their time in Cuba.

“This may seem old fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years,” he said.

Authorities recovered about 10 envelopes with tens of thousands of dollars in cash that had the fingerprints of one of the other defendants in the case on them, according to the indictment.

Menendez also addressed his relationship with Egypt, which plays a central role in the indictment against him, suggesting he’s been tough on the country over its detention of Americans and other “human rights abuses.”

“If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment and throughout my whole career, my record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable,” he said.

Prosecutors say he met with Egyptian military and intelligence officials, passed along non-public information about employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and ghostwrote a letter on behalf of Egypt asking his Senate colleagues to release a hold on $300 million worth of aid. He did not directly address those allegations Monday.

The state’s Democratic leadership, including Gov. Phil Murphy, the state party chairmen and leaders of the Legislature, along with some of Menendez’s congressional colleagues, are calling on him to resign.

In Washington, however, where his party holds a bare Senate majority, some of Menendez’s Democratic colleagues have stopped short of urging him to give up his seat, notably Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

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