Senator Bob Menendez was spotted at a classified briefing on Ukraine on Wednesday, despite having been indicted on multiple bribery charges and accused of acting as an agent to a foreign government.
When asked to explain his presence at the meeting, Menendez brushed off the felony charges.
“Bottom line is, I’m a United States senator. I have my security credentials. And an accusation is just that. It’s not proof of anything,” Menendez told CNN’s Manu Raju.
Menendez has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him and has refused calls for his resignation—even going so far as to suggest he may run for reelection in 2024. He was, however, forced to resign as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senate Democrats’ bylaws, which forbids members from serving in leadership roles if they’re charged with felonies.
He was also notably absent from a classified briefing on Israel last month after some of his colleagues expressed national security concerns regarding his presence, reported The Washington Post.
The New Jersey Democrat and his wife stand accused of acting as a foreign agent for Egypt, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and other flashy gifts in exchange for his “power and influence to protect and enrich” the businessmen and government of Egypt.
It’s the latest in a seeming history of corruption charges for Menendez. In 2017, another corruption case involving the senator and a wealthy eye doctor convicted of Medicare fraud ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict on whether Menendez had traded political favors in exchange for trips on a private jet and lavish vacations.
Altogether, Menendez faces the possibility of up to 45 years in prison on combined conspiracy charges brought against him in September, according to a DOJ indictment, with the possibility of an additional two years, according to a law cited in the October indictment.