The new indictment in the Robert Menendez corruption case could ramp up voter disgust

How will New Jersey voters react to new corruption allegations involving Senator Robert Menendez?

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Sen. Bob Menendez leaves federal court, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in New York.

Sen. Bob Menendez leaves federal court, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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The new superseding indictment handed up in the corruption case of New Jersey U.S. Senator Robert Menendez does not contain any new charges, so why are prosecutors pursuing this? Might this development impact the Democratic primary race this spring for the U.S. Senate seat Menendez now holds?

According to former Morris County prosecutor Bob Bianchi, what’s happening here is not surprising.

Bianchi said this is likely an attempt by prosecutors to escalate things and turn up the heat on Menendez.

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“We’re moving closer to trial and closer to a more draconian resolution, and therefore we’re going back in and superseding this indictment. It doesn’t spell something good for the defendant in a case like that,” he said.

Last October, Menendez was charged with bribery and corruption for allegedly helping the government of Egypt in exchange for cash, gold bars, and a luxury vehicle. According to the new indictment handed up by a federal grand jury on Tuesday, Menendez allegedly also helped the government of Qatar, and he was given more gold, tickets to a Formula 1 race, and his choice of luxury wristwatches.

Menendez, his wife Nadine, and New Jersey real estate tycoon Fred Daibes have all pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“There are many times that prosecutors will file an initial indictment with basic charges and allegations of facts in the hopeful anticipation of a resolution of a matter,” Bianchi said.

He also noted that prosecutors may have also decided to file another indictment because additional facts in the case have come to light.

Requests made to representatives of Menendez for comment were not answered.

Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said while the new indictment does not contain any new charges, it does not change “the overwhelming voter disgust over using public office for personal gain.”

“Many residents of the Garden State are shocked by the amount of gifts he got, the variety of gifts, whether it was tickets, whether it was watches, gold bars, cash, it’s just becoming overwhelming at this point,” he said.

Dan Cassino, the executive director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, said a poll done when Menendez was charged with corruption in October found 70% of state residents wanted him to resign immediately.

“He was already essentially toast in this upcoming election, the primary election on the Democratic side for his seat, no one thinks he has a realistic chance of holding onto that seat,” Cassino said.

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After the new accusations were announced, Menendez’s political challengers took to social media to express their views.

“As disturbing details continue to unfold, one thing is crystal clear- we need new representation and voices in Washington,” New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, who is seeking to unseat Menendez, said on X.

“Can’t stress enough how critical it is to restore integrity to the Senate,” Congressman Andy Kim, who is also running in the primary, wrote on X. “This is our moment to say enough.”

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