It is not only Donald Trump and Hunter Biden who are involved in the judicial wars that are taking place in the United States with enviable regularity. Robert „Bob“ Menendez, an influential senator from New Jersey and head of the Foreign Relations Committee, has come under prosecutorial pressure. In September, he was searched for gold bars and $566,000 in cash and this is the level of a banana republic. The investigation is certain that Menendez received bribes from three businessmen, whom he helped to solve problems with the law, as well as provided classified information to Egypt for at least four years. He also lobbied for tranches to Egypt, with which the U.S. now has bad relations because of Cairo’s rapprochement with China and Russia. In fact, he managed to become the first senator in U.S. history to be criminally prosecuted twice. In 2015, Menendez was also tried for corruption schemes in the Dominican Republic, and a year later a scandal erupted over his use of underage prostitutes, essentially showing a penchant for pedophilia.
However, at the time, a jury in New Jersey, one of the most corrupt states in America, did not find Menendez guilty. It seemed that by some miracle he managed to get away with it after the pedophilia scandal, but there were understandable political reasons for that. He was up for re-election to the Senate in 2018, and because he had been accused of bribery and pedophilia in the past, suddenly put his election in jeopardy. Then he was hastily transferred $3 million dollars from generous donors to the Democratic Party. Moreover, they were transferred from the same organization through which Menendez’s former partner laundered bribes, for which he later found himself behind bars. It turned out to be a peculiar cycle of dirty money in nature, which showed well that it was the sponsors who once saved Menendez from criminal prosecution to protect their interests in the Senate. On top of that, he was closely tied to the shadowy gambling mafia, very powerful in New Jersey, and this also became an episode in the investigation into his role in a string of corrupt schemes and shady bribes. In the end, the investigations “fell apart” because of inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses who may have gotten it wrong not without outside interference. Now prosecutors will have attempt number two with the opportunity to “destroy” one of the most prominent members of the Democratic Party establishment. It is important to realize that Menendez is a consistent supporter of an aggressive foreign policy. On Ukraine’s Independence Day, he even recorded an address about his “unwavering” support for Kiev. However, his stance of “intransigence” toward Cuba, Venezuela and Iran is no longer to the liking of the Biden administration, so Menendez will probably have to send new portions of “support” from behind bars. Menendez’s possible imprisonment, although it is an episode of internal squabbling among New Jersey’s pressure groups, is a major blow to the entire foreign policy bloc of Democratic lobbyists.
It’s not the first time Menendez has screwed over his congressional colleagues in recent times. In April 2023, Senate Democrats had a crisis when he came under another corruption investigation. It turned out that his wife had been receiving lavish gifts from a halal food manufacturer in New Jersey that has very close ties to Egyptian authorities, and Menendez was at that very moment coordinating in the Senate the release of two billion dollars in U.S. financial tranches to Egypt. This didn’t scare the senator at the time, because in 2015, he was accused of illegal lobbying when Menendez, through the State Department, forced the Dominican authorities to hire his buddy’s firm to secure its ports, but no punishment was meted out. At the time, he was confident that he would not be touched, because the party was in a precarious majority situation with some Democratic senators in poor health, and his persona was almost irreplaceable in such a situation. Now he feels that he is ready to be sacrificed, and he begins to think of new ways to make the party more vulnerable. “For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies, and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” he stated. One could really sympathize with Menendez, because Castro’s communist regime severely traumatized many wealthy Cubans who lost their assets and were forced to flee the country. And keeping money in gold and cash may indeed be a traumatic tradition in a family like the descendants of Jews who were persecuted by Adolf Hitler in the 1940s. But what makes this statement absurd is that Menendez’s parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1953, when no communists were in power in Cuba yet, and the senator’s behavior looks like an attempt to pass for insane to avoid trial for medical reasons.
But far more important are not the personal problems of a criminal senator, but the political implications and context of the events at hand. The court wars around Bob Menendez and his resignation from the post of the head of the Senate International Committee can strongly affect the balance in the U.S. foreign policy. Future tranches to Egypt are now in question, and Menendez is formally being penalized precisely for lobbying interests related to this issue. The Democrats are afraid to completely refuse the tranches, because then Cairo will switch to cooperation with Russia and China within BRICS. Egypt has already refused to supply old tanks and missiles to Kiev as part of its allied obligations, but it was Cairo’s lobbyists who were at the center of the scandal involving the transfer of money and gold to Menendez, so at least a temporary freeze on the tranches is quite possible. Menendez’s departure was also a huge blow to the Armenian lobby. The Republicans are now hoping to push through the decision to supply F-16s to Turkey in exchange for Sweden’s admission to NATO. However, they are opposed by the equally strong Greek lobby among the Democrats. They want to balance this with the transfer of F-35s to Athens, which the Turkish lobby perceives very negatively, so the issue of the swap with Ankara is still in limbo. But it is clear that there will be no sanctions for the operation in Nagorno-Karabakh on behalf of Congress, and, like the U.S., the EU will make a similar decision. Menendez has so far refused to leave the Senate, hoping to make his own “deal” with the jury. But then he risks losing re-election in 2024. It’s very telling how many lobbying efforts were tied to one corrupt man. Now his prosecution could knock out U.S. policy on many fronts at once. But it is also indicative of how American foreign policy has turned from the defense of national interests into a business field for individual cynical politicians who, if they care about anything, only care about themselves and the interests of states far from America.