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Menendez plus Hunter Biden cases open Dems to culture of corruption criticism before 2024 elections

Top Democrats have stopped short of calling for Menendez, who already has a primary challenger, to resign from his post after indictment over bribery. But gold bars, bundles of cash and free cars are not a good look for the President's re-election campaign.

Published: September 25, 2023 11:03pm

Thanks to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J), Democrats  – in particular President Biden – may face a stiffer "culture of corruption" criticism because Menendez' indictment for bribery and corruption rings with some similarities to the kind of allegations against Hunter Biden, President Biden's son. The younger Biden is under indictment for gun charges and under investigation for crimes similar to those alleged against Menendez.

According to the indictment, Menendez and his wife accepted “cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other things of value." The vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz C300 convertible, was allegedly purchased for Menendez's wife by businessmen Jose Uribe and Wael Hana, the two co-defendants in the case.

Hana also had allegedly arranged meetings between Menendez, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Egyptian government officials. The indictment alleges that Menendez "provided sensitive US government information and took other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt" in exchange for bribes that Hana had paid him. 

Menendez denied the allegations in a news conference on Monday and predicted that he will still be the senior senator from New Jersey when his trial concludes. 

In a statement, Menendez appeared to blame racism as the motivating force behind the indictment, saying "Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals."

Top-end automobiles represent another similarity between the Biden and Menendez cases. In August, Hunter Biden's ex-business partner Devon Archer told a House committee that the Biden family name and former Vice President Joe Biden's influence resulted in Hunter receiving millions in foreign cash, some of which he used to purchase a $142,300 Porsche.

Archer said the Biden family "brand" helped the Ukraine oil and gas company Burisma stay in business. He also testified that Hunter was being pressured to do something about Victor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. In the same month, then-Vice President Joe Biden, said he helped get Shokin fired. 

"I think Burisma would have gone out of business if it didn't have the brand attached to it. That's my, like, only honest opinion," Archer said. Much of Archer's testimony was consistent with evidence brought forth by an FBI informant. 

In another parallel between both Menendez and Hunter Biden cases, the New Jersey senator hired Abbe Lowell, who is also currently representing Hunter Biden in his tax and firearm-related cases.

Some top Democrats have stopped short of calling for Menendez, who already has a primary challenger, to resign from his post after his indictment over bribery. "No, I'm not going to get involved in New Jersey stuff," Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Just the News when asked if he thinks Menendez should resign.

President Biden hasn't directly commented and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to address the calls from some Democrats, such as Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) for Menendez to step down. "Of course we see this as a serious matter. And I’m just going to leave it there for now," Jean-Pierre said on Monday at a press briefing. 

Notably, Governor Phil Murphy of Menendez' home state of New Jersey and also a Democrat, said in a statement that "Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process. However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation." 

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic leader, hasn't directly addressed the Menendez indictment and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democrat, stopped short of calling for Menendez to resign, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that "There is a presumption of innocence. How far it goes in terms of his future service is something to be decided by the senator and New Jersey."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also stopped short of calling for him to step down. "Senator Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved," he said in a statement.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who also hasn't publicly commented on Menendez indictment, did not attend the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gala in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

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