Defiant, emotional Menendez says he received ‘absolutely nothing’ from Qatar 

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday delivered a defiant and at times emotional speech, denying he had received lavish gifts in exchange for aiding the Qatari government and showing no signs he is prepared to resign.

The New Jersey Democrat said on the Senate floor, a week after federal prosecutors filed a second superseding indictment against him, he received “absolutely nothing” from Qatar and intensely criticized what he argued is a relentless campaign by prosecutors to get him to resign.

Menendez also choked up at times, saying he is “suffering greatly” as a result of the charges. 

“The United States Attorney’s Office is engaged not in a prosecution, but a persecution. They seek a victory, not justice,” Menendez said, calling the allegations sensationalized. “It’s an unfortunate reality but prosecutors sometimes shoot first before they even know all the facts.”

“I have received nothing — absolutely nothing — from the government of Qatar or on behalf of the government of Qatar to promote their image or their issues,” Menendez said. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Menendez received a pair of tickets for a Formula One race in 2022, gold bars and cash. He was also offered a $24,000 watch, prosecutors allege, but it was unclear whether he was actually given it. 

“There is no evidence of the giving or receiving of cash and gold bars,” Menendez added. 

Prosecutors say that in return, the three-term senator issued and supported statements lauding the Qatari government to help a New Jersey developer secure a lucrative deal. 

The latest allegations are on top of the initial batch of charges against Menendez accusing him of acting as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government, accepting bribes and corruption. 

The ongoing saga has also left Menendez with precious few supporters in the Senate. More than 30 of his Senate Democratic colleagues called on him to resign after the initial set of charges was levied against him. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week said his conduct has been “way below the standard of a senator” and that the allegations are “deeply disappointing and disturbing.” 

However, the New Jersey senator has made it clear he isn’t going anywhere, though he has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection in November. He reiterated he is “innocent” and intends to “prove my innocence” at trial.

The filing deadline for him to decide is March 25, with the primary set for June 4 — four weeks after his trial is set to begin. The New Jersey Democrat unsuccessfully sought to delay the trial until July.

Menendez also got emotional toward the end of his speech as he attempted to hold back tears while discussing the legal battle. 

“Finally, let me say that I understand how the government’s accusations — made in the most sensational and purposefully damning way possible, its misuse of the grand jury system, to bring superseding indictments even though it had all of the information they allege from the beginning — can be a source of concern and contempt by some of my colleagues, the political establishment and the people of New Jersey,” Menendez said.

 “I get it, and I am suffering greatly as a result of what they have done. After 50 years of public service, this is not how I wanted to celebrate my golden jubilee,” he said while choking up. 

If he runs, Menendez is set to face off against Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Tammy Murphy, the first lady of the Garden State, in a high-stakes primary that will likely decide the general election as New Jersey is a reliably Democratic state. 

While most Senate Democrats have called for his resignation, few have taken the additional step to call for his expulsion from the chamber. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) has been the lone member in favor of that action.

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