Philhellene Menendez Won’t Resign, His Supporters in the Community React

September 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – New Jersey Senator and philhellene Robert Menendez remained defiant in the face of federal bribery charges on September 28, telling a room full of his Senate Democratic colleagues that he has no plans to resign.

Speaking behind closed doors at the Capitol, Menendez echoed his previous public statements in response to last week’s indictment, according to a person who attended the private luncheon and requested anonymity to discuss it. Menendez has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and pledged that he will beat the charges that he worked to secretly advance Egyptian interests and pressured prosecutors to help his friends.

The New Jersey senator is accused along with his wife, Nadine, in an indictment released September 22, of using his position to aid the authoritarian government of Egypt and to pressure federal prosecutors to drop a case against a friend, among other allegations of corruption. The three-count indictment says they were paid gold bars, a luxury car, and cash by three New Jersey businessmen as bribes in exchange for multiple corrupt acts.

Menendez, who was released on a $100,000 bond September 27, has said the cash found in his home was drawn from his personal savings accounts over the years and that he kept on hand for emergencies.

The indictment alleges repeated actions by Menendez to benefit Egypt, despite U.S. government misgivings over the country’s human rights record that in recent years have prompted Congress to attach restrictions on aid.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., walks from the chamber to a closed-door meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus to address his colleagues for the first time since he was indicted on federal bribery charges at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It is the second corruption case in a decade against Menendez, whose last trial involving different allegations ended with jurors failing to reach a verdict in 2017.

The indictment caused Senator Menendez to step down as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which could prove to be detrimental for Greece. Senator Menendez has been a vocal opponent of Turkey receiving aircraft to update its fighter fleet. But given the new circumstances, Turkey’s chances of acquiring F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. have been boosted – according to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“One of our most important problems regarding the F-16s were the activities of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez against our country,” Erdogan told journalists on a flight back from Azerbaijan on September 25. His comments were widely reported across Turkish media.

“Menendez’s exit gives us an advantage but the F-16 issue is not an issue that depends only on Menendez,” Erdogan added.

Ankara has been seeking to buy 40 new F-16s, as well as kits to upgrade its existing fleet. The request was backed by the White House but ran into opposition in Congress, where Menendez raised concerns about Turkey’s human rights records as well as blaming Ankara for fractious relations with neighboring Greece.

Referring to talks between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in recent days, Erdogan said: “It would be beneficial to turn this situation into an opportunity and meet with (Blinken) again.”

“In this way, we may have the opportunity to accelerate the process regarding the F-16s,” he said. “Not only on the F-16s, but on all other issues, Menendez and those with his mindset are carrying out obstructive activities against us.”

Members of the Greek and Cypriot-American communities attended a press conference the Senator held at Hudson County Community College where he gave his initial response to the allegations leveled against him. Among them was Triantafyllos Pappas, a Greek-American pastry chef from Pennsylvania who traveled quite a distance to attend the press conference, believing that the Community should stand by his side. “I came to show my support for Senator Menendez for all the good he has done for my homeland. Senator Menendez is a great help to Greece that not even Greek MPs have been. Last time, he was falsely accused, and the charges were dropped. I believe the same will happen this time. It’s not a coincidence that all of this has come out now. Even if he runs as an independent, all Greek-Americans should support him in every way,” Pappas stated.

AHEPA Supreme President Savas Tsivicos was also in attendance. He stated, “I came to attend Senator Menendez’s press conference, where once again he reiterated that he is innocent and will prove it in court. The allegations against him by the prosecution are not true, and fortunately, we live in America, where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Although we have a long way to go until the elections, those of us who have known him for many years— I’ve known him for 30 years— believe he is a person of integrity. The charges are serious, but he will have the opportunity to prove otherwise, and he persists. I trust that what he says is the truth.”

Finally, PSEKA Vice President— and a close friend of Menendez— Tasos Zambas, in statements to The National Herald, recalled the senator’s previous legal ordeal in which he himself was a defense witness. He expressed bitterness toward those circles, both inside and outside Greece, who rushed to condemn him.

“If Menendez wanted to make money, he could have sold his seat and made more. But Menendez’s positions are worth billions to some companies and some politicians. That’s why they consider him an obstacle, and that’s why I believe they are trying in any way to remove him from the scene to fulfill their own agendas. The Community has stood by him until now and will continue to do so. Some in Greece, Cyprus, and here condemned him, but it doesn’t matter because they are irrelevant people. However, let’s wait for the case to go to court, and we will respect whatever decision the court makes. America has a judicial system that is commendable, and we believe in it, and it will vindicate him,” Zambas concluded.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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