FBI says Sen. Menendez tried to influence New Jersey prosecutors

FBI says Sen. Menendez tried to influence New Jersey prosecutors

The FBI says Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., tried to interfere in two criminal matters in exchange for payoffs, and now NBC New York has learned the names of three people he allegedly wanted to pressure.

Two of the people, according to numerous sources familiar with the matter, were trying to become the state's U.S. attorney. The third, at the time, was New Jersey's attorney general, sources said.

In an indictment, the three officials who were allegedly contacted were unnamed. Several sources said Menendez improperly spoke to the state attorney general at the time, the current U.S. attorney and the current Hudson County prosecutor.

Menendez is alleged to have contacted all three for the purpose of trying to corruptly fix two criminal matters.

In 2021, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez wanted to become the new U.S. attorney for New Jersey, even though she had no federal law enforcement experience. Prosecutors said that Menendez was taking cash and gold bars from Fred Daibes, who faces federal bank fraud charges.

In the criminal indictment, Daibes didn't detail why he believed Suarez would be beneficial, leaving open questions about why Menendez appeared to support Suarez.

'S troubling about all of this is that a criminal defendant like Daibes shouldn't have any reason to believe that a candidate for the U.S. attorney's office would be favorable to his case,' said NBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

In the end, Suarez did not get the nomination, partly because The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark raised ethics concerns from her past. Phil Sellinger ultimately got the U.S. attorney's job with Menendez's support. In addition, Menendez, who was a candidate for the job, alleged that he brought up the Daibes case - and no other case - with him. The FBI said sellinger told Menendez that he would most likely recuse himself from the Daibes bank fraud case. This is when Menendez, according to the indictment, sought out Suarez as a possibility.

The FBI also said that defendant Jose Uribe gave Menendez and his wife a Mercedes as he sought help with a criminal investigation into his associates being run out of the New Jersey attorney general's office. In exchange, Menendez is accused of calling Gurbir Grewal, then the state attorney-general, directly about the matter.

It's bad enough if it's true that the Senate contacted the New Jersey attorney general to get favorable treatment in an investigation for a friend of the senator's, but it's particularly egregious if the senator was doing so because he was receiving gifts from that person being investigated.

The director of the SEC's Enforcement Division, Grewal, did not respond to questions via a spokeswoman. The current state attorney-general said his office is looking into the questions raised in the indictment.

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for New York's bribery investigation, has said there is no evidence any outcome of the two New Jersey criminal matters was affected by Menendez's alleged efforts.

Menendez, his wife and the three entrepreneurs deny any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty. The president says he plans to fight the charges and stay in office.