Hello, it’s the weekend. This is The Weekender ☕
Sen. Menendez’s indictment last week on another round of federal corruption charges left out something important.
Sure, it’s clear that he was charged with selling his office, in this case for gold bars, income from a no-show halal his wife allegedly held, and other perks like car payments and an air purifier.
But while prosecutors described how Menendez allegedly muscled in on their turf by trying to install a crony as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and by meddling in state-level prosecutions of his friends, what he did within his powers as Senator was omitted.
I set out this week to find out what that was. A clue came tucked several paragraphs deep into the indictment, where prosecutors accused Menendez of ghostwriting a letter on behalf of an Egyptian official, who his wife purportedly called “the General,” to persuade the Senate to release a $300 million hold on military aid.
That allegedly took place in May 2018. I found an article from that month describing a hold which then-Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had placed on a portion of $300 million in aid to Egypt, in part over a bizarre and horrifying case: that of April Corley, an American roller skater who found herself under attack by the Egyptian military during a 2015 trip. A U.S.-supplied Apache helicopter strafed the tourist group that Corley was with, killing 12 while maiming her.
I spoke with Tim Rieser, a Leahy aide for 35 years on foreign policy, about the case. He’s a measured speaker, diplomatic after all that time working on foreign affairs in the Senate. He was disturbed at the idea that Menendez was not only secretly fighting to block efforts to get Corley a settlement from the Egyptians, but that the senator was taking money to do so.
That said, nobody here is unaware of who Menendez is. Nancy Okail, an Egyptian-born foreign policy expert whose own run-in with the country’s government was subject to the same hold as Corley’s, summed it up to me succinctly.
“Integrity was not the quality people would use to describe Senator Menendez,” she remarked.
More on other news below. Let’s dig in.