Sen. Bob Menendez enters not guilty plea to latest criminal indictment

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives at Manhattan federal court, Monday, March 11, 2024, in New York. Sen. Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are charged with conspiring with three businessmen to accept bribes of gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for the senator’s help in projects pursued by the businessmen. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., arrives at Manhattan federal court, Monday, March 11, 2024, in New York. Sen. Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are charged with conspiring with three businessmen to accept bribes of gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for the senator’s help in projects pursued by the businessmen. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty on Monday to new obstruction of justice charges recently added to a broad corruption indictment threatening the Democrat’s re-election chances.

“Once again, not guilty your honor,” Menendez responded after Judge Sidney H. Stein asked him to enter a plea at a 20-minute hearing at a federal court in Manhattan. Menendez had previously pleaded not guilty to other charges in October.

Menendez and his wife, Nadine, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Menendez ignored a shouted question about whether he intends to run for re-election.

The couple is charged with taking bribes of gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for the senator’s help in projects pursued by three New Jersey businessmen. Prosecutors say that in return for the loot, Menendez helped one of the men get a lucrative meat-certification deal with Egypt — and in doing so took actions favorable to the Egyptian government. An indictment said Menendez helped another associate get a deal with a Qatari investment fund.

Two of the three businessmen accused of bribing Menendez also entered not guilty pleas on Monday. A third, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty two weeks ago to bribery charges and agreed to testify against the others at a trial set for May 6.

After his fall arrest, Menendez, 70, was forced to relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but said he would not resign from Congress.

If Menendez does choose to seek re-election, he’ll likely have to face two other strong Democratic contenders in a June 4 primary: U.S. Rep. Andy Kim and Tammy Murphy, the wife of New Jersey’s governor.

The new allegations — part of what is now an 18-count indictment — are related to what prosecutors say were efforts to cover up the illegal bribes.

One of those gifts included a Mercedes-Benz convertible that Uribe says he bought for Nadine Menendez because her husband had been trying to use his influence to squash two criminal investigations into people close to him.

It said Nadine Menendez caused her lawyer to tell prosecutors last August that the money for the car was a loan, when she knew it was a bribe.

Bob Menendez says prosecutors have it wrong, and that the money for the car — and a separate $23,000 payment from another associate that helped Nadine Menendez pay her mortgage, were just loans.

Prosecutors have “long known that I learned of and helped repay loans — not bribes — that had been provided to my wife,” he said in a statement last week.

AP U.S. News

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