Already embroiled in an alleged bribery scandal and facing calls from political party allies to resign, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez is also being investigated by the federal authorities to see what role foreign intelligence agencies might have played in trying to get information from the senator and his wife, News 4 has learned.
The FBI wants to know more about what role Egyptian intelligence agencies might have played in the alleged bribery scheme involving Menendez, who helps oversee billions in aide to Egypt. Additionally, they want to know if Egyptian intelligence or associates tried to gain access through Menendez’s wife, Nadine, sources familiar with the case said.
“Senator Menendez’s chairmanship of foreign relations puts him in a bull’s eye position for foreign intelligence services that are looking to have him make decisions in their favor, including military equipment and materiel decisions on funding,” Former FBI Counterintelligence Chief Frank Figliuzzi said.
Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department officials provided comment.
The lawyer for the man arraigned on Tuesday, Wael Hana, denies his client has ties to Egyptian intelligence, but he said Hana and Nadine Menendez have been friends for years. The lawyer would not comment on allegations Hana gave cash and gold to the senator and his wife.
The FBI says Hana bribed Menendez to win a controversial and exclusive business deal with the Egyptian government. Hana was allegedly paying bribes to Menendez and his wife, as Menendez was allegedly controlling military aid to Egypt. The senator is also accused of passing on non-public government information through his wife and Hana to the Egyptians.
“The question here is whether this all started chronologically with the senator’s marriage, with the senator needing plausible deniability or an arm’s length from any transactions that might be happening with intelligence operatives, all of that should be looked at from a counterintelligence perspective,” Figliuzzi said.
A lawyer for Nadine Menendez declined to comment on the question whether she might have been used by Egyptian intelligence.
The indictment only makes bribery allegations between the senator, his wife and three New Jersey businessmen — charges they all deny.
“The allegations leveled against me are just that: allegations,” the senator said during his first public address Monday following the indictment.
Like Hana, the FBI said Fred Daibes allegedly gave gold bars and thousands in cash to the senator and his wife. The feds say he hoped the senator would pressure the DOJ regarding his separate bank fraud case. A third man allegedly gave the Menendez’s a Mercedes hoping for help with a state attorney general investigation.
Amid all the investigations into their alleged actions and involvement by Menendez, the list of Democrats calling on the senator to resign is growing. On Tuesday, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the senior senator should step down.
Hana appeared in court after flying back from Egypt. Menendez, his wife and the two other businessmen will appear in federal court on Wednesday for their own arraignments.