Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey blocked two Department of Agriculture nominees before Christmas Eve by blocking confirmation proceedings.

On Wednesday afternoon, according to Politico, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez — accused of accepting bribes and working as an agent of foreign governments — stopped two “fairly non-controversial” nominations from proceeding. Basil Gooden had been nominated to become USDA undersecretary for rural development. At the same time, Summer Mersinger had been renominated as commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Still, Menendez abruptly objected just before the confirmation process started, leaving no time for senators and staffers before breaking for the holidays.

Gooden and Mersinger could take several months before being officially confirmed as federal judges.

Menendez was charged 2017 with illegally converging his obligations as a senator to advance U.S. priorities with his ambition of cultivating relationships with wealthy businesspeople and emotional ties to them. Authorities say three New Jersey businesspeople showered Menendez and his wife with money, gold and luxury cars in return for official favours from Menendez’s administration.

Shortly after the latest case was unsealed, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy prioritized Sen. Menendez stepping aside immediately due to allegations which “compromise his ability to serve”. Additional calls came from New Jersey Reps Bill Pascrell, Andy Kim and Mikie Sherrill to take action immediately against him.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that Sen. Menendez must temporarily vacate his post as chairman of foreign relations until this matter has been settled, according to rules established by Senate Democratic caucus rules. Yet, Schumer stopped short of calling on Menendez to resign altogether.

On Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey senator Robert Menendez — accused of accepting bribes and acting as an agent of foreign governments — prevented his colleagues from voting to approve two “fairly non-controversial nominations,” reports Politico. Basil Gooden was nominated as undersecretary for rural development at USDA; Summer Mersinger would return as commissioner at Commodity Futures Trading Commission – both nominations that should have quickly passed with few disagreements from fellow Senators or staff before Menendez objected at the last minute, giving no one time for reconfigurement before breaking for holiday break-off!

Menendez was reacting in protest over what he called Biden administration’s lack of responsiveness toward Congressional Hispanic Caucus members like himself and has grown increasingly frustrated at Democrats willingness to negotiate tighter border security in exchange for foreign aid packages for Ukraine and Israel – something Republicans had long opposed negotiating on with Republicans on border control measures and stricter border security in exchange for foreign aid packages for both. Gooden and Mersinger will likely need several months before receiving confirmation votes.

Some senators and staffers saw Menendez’s move as revenge against Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow of Massachusetts for having called on Menendez to step aside upon being charged with federal corruption charges, according to BNN.

Menendez accused prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office” and promised not to let their allegations distract him from doing his work in the Senate.

Authorities who searched Menendez’s home last year discovered more than $100,000 worth of gold bars, along with over $480,000 cash hidden away in closets, clothing and safes, according to prosecutors. Furthermore, photos in the indictment show envelopes filled with Menendez’s money in jackets bearing his name; also of interest was Menendez’s searching Google for the value of one kilogram of gold as well as DNA evidence of one individual whom they accuse of giving Menendez thousands in exchange for his silence about bribery attempts against.

Menendez has been accused of directly interfering in criminal investigations by pushing to install in New Jersey a federal prosecutor who could influence criminal cases brought against one of his associates and businesspeople who knew of Menendez personally, among other actions prosecutors believe he took against another businessperson who has since filed suit. Menendez may also have used his position of power to interfere with another criminal probe carried out by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Menendez stands accused of engaging in actions designed to aid Egypt despite U.S. concerns regarding its human rights record, prompting Congress to place restrictions on aid. According to the indictment, these efforts included ghostwriting a letter encouraging his fellow senators to lift an embargo placed on $300 million allocated by Congress as aid and transmitting nonpublic military-related intelligence directly to Egyptian officials.

Menendez was charged in October with accepting hundreds of thousands in cash, gold bars and other forms of bribery in return for using his senatorial position to benefit business associations and the Egyptian government. Menendez has denied these accusations against him.

Menendez issued the following emailed statement in his defence. For years now, forces behind the scenes have attempted to silence my voice and secure my political demise. Since this investigation began being leaked nearly one year ago, anonymous sources and innuendoes have been used in an active smear campaign designed to create the appearance of impropriety where none exists.”

David Schertler, Menendez’s wife’s attorney, stated in court documents that she denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously oppose these accusations.

According to the Senate Historical Office, Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator ever charged with two separate criminal matters in U.S. history. His trial on pressure allegations made against government officials for helping resolve an eye doctor case who lavished him with gifts and campaign contributions ended in an impasse due to deadlocked jury deliberations.

Next year, he must seek reelection as one of ten Democrats holding onto an edged majority in the Senate.

Prosecutors allege Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from three business associates — Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes — as bribes to push Philip Sellinger through the U.S. attorney nomination process to protect Daibes as a longtime friend who faced criminal prosecution from being targeted, according to authorities. Sellinger currently holds this post without being accused of wrongdoing himself.

Daibes recently entered into a plea bargain that calls for him to serve only probation in this instance. His sentencing hearing will occur later this month.

White House spokespersons did not comment on Biden’s nomination of Sellinger as a defendant in this indictment case.

Requests for comment from Daibes and Uribe’s lawyers were returned after some time. At the same time, Steven Goldberg from Hana said she is currently reviewing her indictment but believes it has “absolutely no merit”.

Authorities allege that in April 2020, shortly after meeting an Egyptian official, Menendez attempted to increase American engagement in negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan regarding building a dam across the Nile River – an essential foreign policy issue for Egypt.

According to the indictment, after Menendez alerted a government official of an investigation involving one of Uribe’s associates, Uribe and Hana collaborated in providing his wife, Nadine Menendez, with a 2019 Mercedes convertible. After completion, Nadine texted her husband, “Congratulations, mon amour de la vie! Some senators and staffers, according to BNN, saw Menendez’s move as revenge against Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow for calling on Menendez to step aside following federal corruption allegations against his wife, Lorelei Menendez and herself allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands in cash, gold bars or other forms of bribery in return for using their position to benefit specific business associations or the Egyptian government through Senatorial positions. Menendez denied these charges while his spokesperson strongly refuted any suggestion his actions against Stabenow were a reprisal against Stabenow; she denounced them outright: “It simply is not true”.

Menendez had initially been accused of abusing his political influence to pressure government officials into helping resolve a Medicare billing dispute favouring one of his friends, Dr Salomon Melgen; providing visas for two girlfriends of Dr Melgen; as well as protecting a contract, he held to provide port-screening equipment in the Dominica Republic.

Menendez has maintained his innocence, and the prosecution decided not to proceed after an August 2017 jury deadlock on charges including bribery, fraud and conspiracy was declared null and void and some counts dismissed by a judge.

Menendez was born to Cuban immigrants and had been living in Union City since 1986 when elected Mayor. Additionally, he held state legislative and U.S. Congressional seats until 2006, when New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to fill his former Senate seat when becoming governor.

These new charges stem from a years-long investigation that assessed Hana’s company, IS EG Halal, being given exclusive approval from Egypt to certify that meat imported into their country conforms with Islamic diet requirements.

U.S. agriculture officials were taken aback when IS EG Halal received certification. Although other certification companies previously provided it, Egyptian officials turned them down in favour of IS EG Halal, which had yet to gain experience in that area.

Prosecutors allege Menendez exerted pressure on a U.S. Department of Agriculture official not to oppose Hana’s company as the sole halal certifier, according to allegations by prosecutors. According to authorities, Hana used her company to send payments back into Menendez’s wife’s company, Strategic International Business Consultants LLC, where the prices went towards paying bribes to this scheme.

Senate disclosure forms amended by Menendez in March 2022 reveal Nadine Menendez’s assets, such as gold bars valued between $100,000 and $250,000. Between April and June of 2022, Menendez cashed out some or all of these precious metal assets by selling between $2000-40000 bars for at least $250k each while maintaining at least this minimum value threshold price point.

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