A US senator facing corruption charges says nearly half a million dollars in cash which authorities discovered in his home was from his personal savings – and not from bribes.
Democrat Bob Menendez also said the $480,000 (£393,000) – allegedly found stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe at his home – was being kept on hand for emergencies.
“This may seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years,” said the veteran New Jersey senator, who has been charged with bribery.
Federal agents who carried out the search of his home in 2022 also found gold bars worth more than $100,000 (£82,000), prosecutors said. Another $70,000 was discovered inside his wife’s safety deposit box, they said.
Rejecting calls for him to resign – including from Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer – Menendez added in a news conference: “I recognise this will be the biggest fight yet.
“But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be the New Jersey’s senior senator.”
Menendez, 69, made the speech at Hudson County Community College’s campus in Union City – where he grew up.
It came after he announced his decision to temporarily step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following the charges.
He and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold and a luxury car from a trio of New Jersey businessmen in return for a variety of corrupt acts, according to an indictment, which was unsealed on Friday.
The indictment alleged Menendez used his clout to interfere in three criminal cases, pressured US agriculture regulators to protect an associate’s business interests, and used his position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee to influence US policy on Egypt.
Prosecutors claim he met Egyptian military and intelligence officials, passed on non-public information about employees at the US embassy in Cairo and was the ghostwriter of a letter on behalf of Egypt asking his Senate colleagues to release a hold on $300m (£246m) worth of aid.
Addressing his relationship with Egypt, he suggested he had been tough on the country over its detention of Americans and other “human rights abuses”.
“If you look at my actions related to Egypt during the period described in this indictment and throughout my whole career, my record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable,” he said.
Menendez and his wife each face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under colour of official right.
He denies any wrongdoing.
In an emailed statement last week, he accused prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office” and said he will not allow his work in the Senate to be distracted by “baseless allegations”.
A lawyer for his wife said she “denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court”.