Sen. Menendez: Secret Agent Man?

The initial shock had largely worn off, the expressions of dismay and disappointment and the calls for his resignation were all on the public record and Sen. Bob Menendez went about his normal routine in the halls of Congress while his team of attorneys worked on constructing a defense against the bribery charges lodged against him and his wife by federal prosecutors.

Then, the second shoe dropped — a stunning superseding indictment accusing Menendez of using his office to advance the interests and agenda of the Egyptian government –- a violation of Federal law — to enrich himself.

The implications are unimaginable: a sitting U. S. Senator, chairman of the influential and powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee with access to highly sensitive and classified government documents allegedly doing the bidding of a foreign government.

The indictment does not allege espionage, but rather that the Senator, his wife Nadine and an Egyptian businessman ”willfully and knowingly coordinated, conspired, confederated and agreed together and with each other to have a public official (Menendez) act as an agent of a foreign principal — the government of Egypt and Egyptian officials.”

They stand accused of failing to register as   agents of a foreign government, although Menendez, as a government official, is already prohibited from engaging in such activity.

While there is a significant difference between  allegations of espionage and failure to comply with a registration requirement — a bureaucratic task —  doing favors for and sharing government information with a foreign power will likely be construed by many as a distinction without a difference.

As is usually the case, a complex set of circumstances will be broken down to a simple allegation: Menendez, as a U. S. Senator, placed the interests of Egypt over the interests and well-being of the United States, the nation whose safety and security was entrusted to him by his Constitutional oath.

It is a devastating accusation, one not brought lightly by prosecutors against a member of the United States Senate.  They were certainly aware of the reaction such an indictment would evoke but seemingly are confident their evidence is sufficiently solid to prevail at trial.

Menendez, as he did when the conspiracy to commit bribery indictment was brought in late September, denied any wrongdoing and attributed the indictments to forces arrayed against him engaging in a smear campaign.

It’s not precisely former President Trump’s “witch hunt” defense, but it’s close.

The Senator has rebuffed all demands for his resignation while leaving open a re-election campaign — even in a contested primary — seemingly convinced he remains powerful enough  to withstand an onslaught from within his own party and, should he secure renomination, from a Republican opponent in 2024.

Should he remain rigidly defiant — and there is no indication he will not — the Democratic leadership will suffer a political migraine of epic proportions.

He’s lost the support of the establishment from Gov. Phil Murphy through most of the Democratic Congressional delegation and county chairs and more than half his colleagues in the Senate.

The latest foreign agent indictment may turn out to be the last straw for his Senate colleagues.

Murmurs of expulsion can be heard, even though Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has remained silent, refusing to call on Menendez to resign, and the White House only response thus far is a ho hum characterization of the indictments as “a serious matter.”

It is likely that private back channel conversations have occurred between Menendez and national Democrats — perhaps even from the Biden Administration — to gauge the possibility of persuading the Senator to step down.  If so, they’ve all come to naught.

Realistically, New Jersey’s establishment, has little leverage to force a resignation if Menendez continues to assert his innocence and remains in office.

A successful primary challenge is the sole alternative, a coalescing behind a challenger and throwing the party’s organizational and financial resources into the race.

While Third District Congressman Andy Kim is the only announced challenger at this point, others have displayed some interest.  A multi-candidate field, however, would go against the party’s best interest, potentially splintering the vote and creating a lane for Menendez to win with a small percentage.

Murphy and the leadership face the daunting — but crucial — task of uniting the party or risk an outcome that in a contest of wills Menendez will emerge as bigger than the party itself.

They must bear in mind that, according to the tentative trial date schedule, the primary campaign will be in full throttle while testimony — some of it potentially damaging — will dominate media coverage.

Menendez is in the battle of his life to salvage his career and reputation and potentially avoid prison.  The forces arrayed against him are formidable and armed with unlimited resources.

He may be caught in a typical Capitol Hill reaction to those accused of major transgressions – when the accused is encountered, avoid eye contact and move to the opposite side of the corridor to pass by.

This is not another internal political brawl at the county or state level — the kind Menendez and his dedicated allies normally win — but a titanic struggle to the last soldier standing.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Cener for Public Policy at Stockton University.

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One response to “Sen. Menendez: Secret Agent Man?”

  1. Wisdom for all Religions and all Religious People!
    I was born just before WW-2 and broth up as a Catholic Christian person, which had suffered for as long as I can remember. During my young days as a kid, I was put on the Stone Wall for immediate Execution by the Mussolini and Chetniks regimes, was a Refugee, and walked mountains with rain, cold, wet, and dry without any help from you God, I served the Church and the Priest at the Altar, the way is done in my Country at that time been Yugoslavian, it is not very comfortable, because you kneel on the bloody bare Concrete, and if you have any problem with your legs, which I had for many years, believe me, it is not very comfortable or good, which I am sure you definitely know that; as a GOD, it was not so good, even if you hope to be Healthy person. In my experience with you God; among those that live very happily and at the same time putting Burden and Torture on to; others. You are not different from the New Jersey DOJ and their Treasury “Crooks”. Presently the only religion I have is what you have imposed on too me; so, so far! I can “See, Eat, Drink, Test, and Feel, Please Note; that all other is “Irrelevant” even though you have subjected me to three Operations, I know that I will be dead perhaps sooner than expected, when I am gone from this miserable “Earth of yours” what are you going to do with my dead body that will be your problem, I do not expect much since; you did not do much for me while I was/am alive, soon I will be dead perhaps sooner than expected, So? God, what you are going to do with my miserable body will be your Damn; Problem? Yes, you can give me some “Ghost Powers if that exists, which I do know that it does not. Yes if you exist you probably must realize by now that I have lost “ALL my Faith in you”! To make corrections with our Politician’s Power Abusers, Which you find not to be your job? Then what is your job other than making us suffer and some people believe in you, which is in my opinion that you don’t give or exist? If you made us all then you should have the ability to give some people who believe in you “SOME HELP and PROOF that you really exist, or who you really are.” Unless you like to prosecute all of us as you have done with your son assuming that he did not belong to the same UNION as in NEW JERSEY, DOJ. The Treasury, and Double Dippers. The USA: Thank you, Lord!

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