The Weekend Wrap: October 15, 2023
Two Members of Congress are hit with superseding indictments
Welcome to the Weekend Wrap! This week let’s start with the non-Trump news.
White Collar Highlights
Senator Bob Menendez (credit: Rolling Stone)
Senator Menendez Charged with Being a Foreign Agent
There was a significant development in the corruption case of Senator Robert Menendez last Thursday. Prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding a charge that the Senator, his wife, and their co-defendant Wael Hana conspired to have Senator Menendez act as an agent for the country of Egypt, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
FARA requires anyone engaged in activities such as lobbying and public relations on behalf of a foreign country to register with the Justice Department. It allows the government (and everyone else) to know when someone is working on behalf of another country. Public officials, including U.S. Senators, are prohibited from working as foreign agents and registering under FARA.
The original indictment (see post below) already charged that in exchange for cash, gold bars, and other bribes, Menendez passed along information and agreed to work on Egypt’s behalf on matters involving military aid. The new indictment adds an allegation that Menendez agreed to act on Egypt’s behalf to ease the concerns of some members of Congress about an incident where an American citizen was injured in a 2015 Egyptian air strike.
To prove Menendez’s knowledge about FARA’s requirements, the indictment includes information about efforts Menendez made between 2020 and 2022 to have the Justice Department investigate a former Republican member of Congress for allegedly failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. In a letter to the head of the DOJ National Security Division, Menendez wrote: “The Act is clear that acting directly or indirectly in any capacity on behalf of a foreign principal triggers the requirement to register under FARA.” As someone who admires a well-crafted indictment, I thought including that was a nice touch.
This case was first indicted less than a month ago. It’s a little unusual to supersede this quickly, and it’s not clear why this charge wasn’t just included in the initial indictment. It certainly seemed like there was already enough there to justify a FARA charge.
In any event, charges that a U.S. Senator and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was acting as an agent for a foreign government are explosive. This will add to the pressure on Menendez to resign from the Senate. Another Democratic Senator, John Fetterman from Pennsylvania, has already called on the Senate to expel Menendez.
Rep. George Santos Hit with 10 More Felony Charges
Speaking of superseding indictments, prosecutors also returned one against New York Rep. George Santos.
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