Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) recently rejected an invitation to attend a classified Senate briefing on US-Israel relations, due to his recent indictment and poor attendance record. Menendez, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was offered the opportunity to attend the briefing by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the respective committee.
The briefing was intended to provide lawmakers with updated information on ongoing negotiations between the two countries. Menendez’s decision not to attend the event might come as no surprise given that he is currently facing a federal corruption trial for bribery and other charges. The US Department of Justice indicted Menendez in April of 2015, alleging that the senator had accepted nearly $1 million in gifts and contributions from a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for political favors.
In response to Menendez’s decision, Senator Corker released a statement expressing disappointment in the senator’s inability to attend the briefing. As quoted in the Senator’s statement, the Tennessee Republican said: “We invite Ranking Members on both sides to all classified briefings, and Senator Menendez’s attendance has unfortunately been lacking. I’m particularly disappointed in his decision to not join us today given the importance of the issue for the United States and Israel.”
The legal dispute between Menendez and the US Justice Department continues to affect his charitable and political activities. In May of 2016, he backed away from his annual ‘Robert Menendez Jewish Heritage Scholarship Dinner’ banquet, which was scheduled to benefit young Jewish students in his home state of New Jersey.
Despite the US Justice Department’s ongoing case against Menendez, the senator continues to express his strong support for Israel. During a press conference in November of 2016, Menendez declared that he is, “a full-throttled advocate for Israel and her place as a strong and secure member of the community of nations.” He added that he stands firmly against any attempt to weaken Israel’s security or reputation.
Though Menendez has chosen not to attend the classified briefing regarding US-Israel relations, he maintains his commitment to the country’s security and prosperity.