The indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has briefly toppled a strong Senate International Relations chairman recognized for conserving a decent grip on issues earlier than the panel and wielding his seat to realize his goals.
Menendez is gearing up for the battle of his political life, refusing to resign over corruption fees regardless of calls from a lot of his Democratic colleagues, telling reporters Monday that “prosecutors get it fallacious typically.”
However those that have labored with Menendez say the costs are a mirrored image of a lawmaker who was effectively conscious of the leverage he held as chairman.
“He was not shy about attempting to get what he wished in any context and was very direct about it; he didn’t actually attempt to obscure or obfuscate what he was trying to get. That transactional relationship actually permeated every little thing,” stated one former Democratic staffer who labored reverse Menendez on the Home International Affairs Committee.
“He’s a f—ing bully. He does what he desires. and if he doesn’t get what he desires, you’re gonna pay for it. If not now, then someday sooner or later,” the supply added.
Menendez has linked his emotional advocacy for particular international coverage points to his relationships and experiences, pointing to his mother and father’ flight from Cuba each as a purpose for conserving almost half 1,000,000 in money locked in a secure in his home in addition to the impetus behind his battle towards human rights abuses.
However critics say Menendez’s give attention to these points appeared to transcend simply representing constituent pursuits, including that he loved being celebrated for his work and would really feel entitled to the advantages of his stature — traits getting a renewed look because the Justice Division brings its second corruption case towards him.
Menendez stepped down from the International Relations chairship hours after the Justice Division final week indicted him on three counts, together with fees linked to bribery and extortion, conserving with Democratic guidelines about leaving committee positions when going through felony fees.
It’s a dramatic fall for a pacesetter on U.S. coverage points, one seen as a number one voice in how the U.S. engaged all over the world — from Latin America, the Center East, Asia and Europe — however who additionally sees himself as a broader champion for human rights.
“Anybody who places this man up on the market on international coverage, they’re not taking note of his report,” stated one one that recurrently works with the congressional international coverage committees.
The indictment accuses Menendez of utilizing his place as chairman to, partially, assist navy gross sales to Egypt in change for monetary achieve.
However the particular person identified that Egypt’s navy enjoys bipartisan assist, and international navy financing for Cairo didn’t obtain pushback from the three different prime lawmakers with oversight of international affairs.
The Biden administration earlier this month issued a waiver to ship $235 million in navy help to Egypt regardless of Cairo’s human rights report.
“I feel he’s at all times been principled,” the supply added of his international coverage positions. “He is aware of when the USA has leverage. He has a greater and a keener sense than most on tips on how to use that leverage. … I feel he’s a strategist and a statesman.”
The indictment ranges critical allegations over whether or not Menendez exploited his international coverage place to learn a international authorities, particularly Egypt, in change for monetary kickbacks — in money, gold bricks, mortgage funds and luxurious automobiles.
Greater than half of his Democratic colleagues have referred to as for his resignation, and a few are elevating alarm that there must be a more in-depth have a look at any harm to U.S. international coverage.
“It’s a devastating sequence of allegations and as a committee, we now have a duty to know what Egypt was doing and what Egypt thought it was getting,” stated Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the chairman of the subcommittee overseeing the Center East, Tuesday alongside requires Menendez to resign.
“There are critical implications for U.S. coverage in direction of Egypt.”
Former committee staffers who spoke with The Hill expressed anger towards Menendez over the costs specified by the indictment, which they stated compromised a committee on the forefront of America’s nationwide safety and values.
“I labored on the workers of the Senate International Relations Committee for 12 years. In that point, no Member was ever accused of conduct even approaching that with which Sen. Menendez is criminally charged,” stated Jonah Clean, who served as a senior international coverage adviser beneath the chairmanship of then-Sen. Joe Biden (D).
“He ought to step down instantly, definitely from the committee, and — at the least for my part — from the Senate.”
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) put Menedez’s status succinctly: “I’ve learn that some consider Sen. Menendez enforces a tough grudge.”
It was a view shared by former Democratic staffers who labored with the New Jersey senator.
“There’s positively a historical past of him holding grudges towards sure members of the delegation or Home or Senate in the event that they went towards his coverage, and it makes it tough to hold out your job, particularly within the Trump years,” stated a former Democratic staffer who labored in a New Jersey congressional workplace.
Sources stated that was significantly true in issues coping with Latin American international coverage.
Menendez was born in New York to folks who fled the Castro regime, a narrative central to his private story and his advocacy of powerful insurance policies with the area’s socialist leaders.
“He very a lot had his agenda and his convictions on sure points. Significantly like in Latin America, and in that area, he actually exerted his affect as a result of lots of people on the State Division aren’t as lively in that area. So for him, what he stated type of went,” the previous HFAC staffer stated.
Fulton Armstrong, who labored on the Senate International Relations Committee beneath then-Sen. Biden and later labored on Latin American coverage points on the State Division, stated Menendez is one in all a number of members within the international coverage area who “retains e-book” on these they work together with, together with those that would possibly later come up for Senate-confirmed positions.
However he stated whereas some State Division officers could have had profession issues in thoughts whereas coping with Menendez, his sway on Latin American coverage was primarily according to the coverage course already most popular by the administration.
“He actually was not the controlling ogre, however the handy excuse. They may say, ‘Properly, you realize what, the chairman desires this.’ And, ‘Oh, you realize we’ve to watch out and we don’t need to cross him,’ and so on. I’m unsure that they ever have executed something that wasn’t actually what they wished to do anyway,” Armstrong stated.
However the former New Jersey delegation staffer stated Menedez would typically butt heads with different Latinos serving in Congress who advocated for approaching the area in a different way.
“I noticed that much less after I was working with New Jersey members and extra when working for a Latino member within the [Congressional Hispanic Caucus], and the way in which [Menendez] would deal with it with individuals popping out on positions on him or going additional than him on Latin America or Cuba coverage, and folks would get minimize out of occasions or minimize out of messaging in the event that they didn’t keep the place he was,” the supply stated.
“Clearly, he had private opinions and household ties that coloured his opinions on Cuba and the way international coverage performed out on that.”
Armstrong stated whilst a senator, if not a boss, Menendez wields vital energy, significantly with a State Division largely according to his method.
“A single member can nonetheless do a number of harm. And he does have the institutional reminiscence and the depth and the workers and the data of the place skeletons are in varied coverage areas, that he’s going to nonetheless be a formidable participant on Latin America coverage,” he stated.
“I don’t assume that in a single day, anyone on the State Division goes to be singing Hallelujah. Even the people who he has blackballed previously.”
Menendez has not but addressed whether or not he’ll run for reelection in 2024, however he has doubled down on remaining within the Senate.
“It isn’t misplaced on me how rapidly some are dashing to evaluate a Latino and push him out of his seat. I’m not going wherever,” he stated in a press release the day he was indicted.
He’s considered as the first roadblock to the Biden administration’s efforts to produce the Turkish authorities with F-16 fighter jets and upgrades to its current fleet, exercising a maintain on the navy gross sales over his considerations about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian maintain over the state.
“Certainly one of our most necessary issues concerning the F-16s had been the actions of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez towards our nation,” Erdoğan advised reporters Tuesday.
Turkey additionally views with anger Menendez’s staunch assist of Armenia. The senator was considered as a significant power in getting the Senate to acknowledge Turkish atrocities towards Armenians within the early twentieth century as genocide. Menendez choked again tears on the ground of the Senate on the day the genocide was acknowledged in 2019.
He’s additionally a fierce advocate supporting Yerevan in its battle with Azerbaijan, and he has sparred with the State Division over their cautious diplomacy in attempting to barter between the 2 Caucus international locations — which face competing U.S. nationwide safety pursuits involving Russia, Iran, Turkey and Israel.
On the day of his indictment, Menendez launched bipartisan laws geared toward imposing prices on Azerbaijan over their aggression towards Armenians within the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
At a listening to analyzing U.S. coverage towards the Caucuses in November, Menendez scolded prime State Division officers for failing to label Azerbaijan as an aggressor towards Armenia.
“It’s completely, completely unacceptable and you’ll inform the secretary I’ll be searching for methods to precise my dissatisfaction.”
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not revealed, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.