Updated Jan 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Bob Menendez faces new allegations of aiding Qatar

Sen. Bob Menendez. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was hit with another superseding federal indictment on Tuesday alleging that he took bribes in exchange for helping the government of Qatar.

Why it matters: Menendez faces charges of bribery and conspiring to act as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt, and has faced pressure from many in his party to step down from Congress.

  • Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the charges in the first two indictments.
  • The senator's lawyer Adam Fee said in a statement to Axios: "The government's new allegations stink of desperation."

Driving the news: In a 50-page indictment filed Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that Menendez accepted cash and gold bars from New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes in exchange for helping him to secure an investment from a company tied to the Qatari government.

  • Menendez "made multiple public statements supporting the government of Qatar," which he first sent to Daibes "so that [he] could share them with the Qatari Investor," the indictment alleges.
  • After receiving one such press release and attending a private event hosted by the Qatar government with Menendez, Daibes allegedly sent Menendez screenshots of wristwatches valued between $9,990 and $23,990, asking: "How about one of these."
  • Daibes also allegedly texted Menendez multiple times about a resolution supporting Qatar that was before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chaired at the time.

Zoom in: The superseding indictment sheds new light on the alleged bribery scheme outlined in the initial indictment against Menendez.

  • For instance, Menendez allegedly made his now infamous Google search asking "how much is a kilo of gold worth," after being picked up from the airport by Daibes' driver following a trip to Qatar.
  • Daibes provided Menendez with at least one gold bar after signing a letter of intent for the Qatari investment firm, with Menendez subsequently Googling "one kilo gold price," the indictment says.

The other side: "The government does not have the proof to back up any of the old or new allegations," Fee said. "What they have instead is a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures based on routine, lawful contacts between a Senator and his constituents or foreign officials."

  • Fee asserted that Menendez "acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt, and the many other countries he routinely interacts with," predicting the charges "won't survive the scrutiny of the court or a jury."

What we're watching: Menendez's trial is set to begin in May, but his political fate may already be sealed.

  • The New Jersey senator hasn't said whether he will seek re-election this year, but he faces primary challenges from Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy.
  • Several polls have put Menendez's support, should he run, at single digits.

Editor's note: The headline for this article has been corrected to say that Menendez faces new allegations in the indictment, but not new charges.

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