Manhattan federal prosecutors added a foreign agent conspiracy charge to the counts Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is facing, per a superseding indictment released on Thursday.
Menendez now faces four counts stemming from his relationship with Egyptian officials. But while the initial indictment accused Menendez of doing favors which benefitted Cairo in exchange for cash and other perks, the new charge formally accuses the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of conspiring to secretly act on behalf of the Egyptian government.
TPM was first to report last month that Menendez allegedly worked against April Corley, an American roller skater who had been maimed in an accidental strike by Egyptian forces while on vacation there. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had placed a hold on $300 million in military aid to Cairo pending a resolution to Corley’s case.
Prosecutors have now gone further than the initial federal bribery charges they brought against Menendez last month.
Now, they say that Menendez agreed to “take and took a series of acts on behalf of Egypt, including on behalf of Egyptian military and intelligence officials,” and allegedly did so with his wife, Nadine Arslanian, and New Jersey businessman Wael Hana.
The charge that Menendez, while chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, violated the bedrock law against secretly acting as a foreign agent is stunning, even for a senator who walked in an earlier corruption case in 2018. Per the superseding indictment, Menendez conspired to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) from 2018 through 2022, when FBI agents descended on his home armed with search warrants.
Under the new charge, prosecutors allege Menendez used his office to help the Egyptian government release a hold on military aid put in place by Congress over the case of an American roller skater who had been wounded in a mistaken airstrike in the country in 2015. To illustrate that Menendez was aware of how FARA works, prosecutors alleged that the senator sent two letters to high-ranking DOJ officials in 2020 and 2022 as part of an effort to have a former member of Congress prosecuted for foreign agent violations.
Prosecutors said in the indictment that Menendez posted both letters online, and the indictment quotes the May 2022 letter in which the senator allegedly wrote that “it is imperative that the Justice Department ensure” the person is held to account.
That text and date match a letter Menendez posted online in which he sought to have former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) prosecuted for purported work for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Rivera was arrested in December 2022 on FARA and money laundering charges. Rivera has pleaded not guilty. Rivera’s attorney told TPM that while his client vehemently denies the charges, “it may be that the government is going to, as Shakespeare said, hoist Sen Menendez on the petard of his own words.”
But the meat of the new charge comes down to what Menendez allegedly did to help Egypt.
There, prosecutors expanded the indictment to include an allegation which matches the case of April Corley.
Per new allegations included in the indictment, Menendez, Arslanian, and Hana met with an Egyptian intelligence official in his Senate offices in May 2019. The indictment does not identify Corley by name, but the description of an American seeking compensation after being attacked in 2015 by a “U.S.-manufactured Apache helicopter” matches the details of her case.
There, the group allegedly discussed Corley’s case. Afterwards, Menendez allegedly searched her name on Google, and read an article about the case.
One week later, prosecutors say, an Egyptian official texted Hana saying that Menendez would “sit very comfortably” if he helped resolve the matter.
“Orders, consider it done,” Hana allegedly replied. The official then allegedly forwarded screenshots of a statement from Corley, which made it to the senator via his wife.
Later that evening, Menendez allegedly went to a steakhouse with Arslanian, Hana, and the official. Prosecutors quote Arslanian as asking, “what else can the love of my life do for you?”