The Justice Department is weighing possible charges against Sen. Bob Menendez after a yearslong public-corruption probe, the Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 25.
Prosecutors are expected to meet with his lawyers in the coming weeks ahead of a final decision, the people familiar with the matter said.
New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, a Democrat who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has been under scrutiny by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The probe in part has examined whether he or his wife, Nadine Arslanian, received gifts in exchange for political favors, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.
Prosecutors also have investigated the circumstances surrounding a lucrative contract that a New Jersey businessman secured with Egyptian officials for certifying halal meat exports, the Journal has reported. The businessman, whom Menendez hosted in his office along with Egyptian officials in 2018, became the sole certifier of halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt the following year.
Details about any potential criminal charges couldn’t be learned. It also couldn’t be determined whether other individuals under scrutiny, including Arslanian, are in jeopardy of being prosecuted.
Late-stage meetings with the Justice Department typically come after prosecutors believe they have developed the evidence they need to bring charges. The meetings give defense lawyers an opportunity to present reasons why the government shouldn’t charge their client.
“As stated previously, the senator remains confident this matter will be successfully resolved,” said a spokeswoman for Menendez.
Menendez said earlier this year that the investigation wouldn’t lead to anything.
“If anyone looks at my history on Egypt, they would know that by both denying aid to Egypt, denying arms sales to Egypt, criticizing its human-rights record, I am not in a position to be helpful to anyone as it relates to Egypt,” he said on CNN in April, referring to the halal contract.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. A lawyer for Arslanian declined to comment.
The current probe is separate from a federal investigation that led to Justice Department charges against the New Jersey senator in 2015. Prosecutors in that case accused Menendez of a yearslong bribery scheme involving nearly $1 million in campaign contributions and gifts from a Florida eye doctor. The trial, which took place in 2017, ended in a mistrial after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. The senator maintained his innocence and the department decided not to retry him after the judge acquitted Menendez on some charges.
Menendez could continue to serve in the closely divided Senate if charged, much as he did during the previous case. He is up for re-election next year.
The latest investigation dates to at least 2019, when federal investigators executed search warrants at the New Jersey home and office of Wael Hana, an associate of Menendez’s wife who also founded the halal business that won the contract with Egypt.
Prosecutors were investigating possible undisclosed foreign lobbying in the U.S. and other potential violations of federal law, according to court documents filed by a lawyer for Hana. The lawyer said at the time that Hana hadn’t been identified as a target of the probe.
A spokeswoman for Hana referred to an earlier statement in which she said that his company was awarded the halal certification contract with Egypt without any assistance from Menendez or other U.S. public officials. “Any allegations about cars, apartments, cash, and jewelry being provided by anyone associated with ISEG Halal to Senator Menendez or his wife at all, let alone in exchange for any kind of favorable treatment, are totally without basis,” she said.