[Senator Bob Menendez, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

Indicted Democratic Senator May Run As Independent

Democrats hoping to keep their Senate majority may soon be getting another headache. NBC News has learned from two direct sources that Senator Bob Menendez, representing New Jersey and currently under indictment, is contemplating a bid for re-election in November as an independent candidate.

Menendez has refused calls to resign after it appeared that he and his wife received luxury cars, gold bars, and cash from leaders connected to Egypt. He was removed as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after that.

New Jersey is typically a solid Democratic state, but adding a powerful Democrat running as an independent could make the race a tossup. 

NBC News writes

Menendez, who along with his wife, Nadine Menendez, is facing 18 federal counts and is charged with taking bribes, has not yet publicly said if he would run again this year; his term is up in January.

The powerful New Jersey Democrat stepped down from his post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after his initial indictment but has rejected calls to resign.

He is now making calls to allies about his record and career and is preparing to collect petitions to run in November as an independent, the sources said. If Menendez were to run as a Democrat, he would need to come up with 1,000 signatures by March 25 — so time is not on his side. But running as an independent would give him more time; in that case, he would need only 800 signatures by June 4 to qualify for the ballot.

A clearly frustrated Menendez did not deny that he’s planning to run as an independent when asked by NBC News Thursday afternoon, saying multiple times: “I don’t have to declare what I am doing. When I do, everybody will know.”

Democratic leader Chuck Schumer clearly has not been too disturbed by Menendez’s alleged crimes and selling out of American interests to foreign entities. He recently appointed the New Jersey senator to an important national security group in the Senate. 

The appointment of Menendez comes just days after it was revealed that donors to the embattled senator’s legal defense fund are allegedly connected to terrorism. 

The Intercept reported that the senator’s “legal defense is being paid in part by donors with links to a former terrorist organization, a sign of the senator’s need for fast cash.

In September, federal prosecutors hit Menendez and his wife with a raft of bribery charges and, more recently, obstruction of justice. (Menendez and his wife pleaded not guilty to the charges.) With a trial scheduled for May, Menendez stands to rack up staggering legal fees. His legal defense fund, according to public disclosures, had already spent $373,223 as of the end of January.

Much of the cash in the fund — he has raised over $400,000 — comes from sources one might anticipate. New Jersey and New York donors with various business and political interests in his home state, including the real estate firm led by Jared Kushner’s family, have given the fund money. There are, however, many lesser-known donors. One is Ahmad Moeinimanesh, an electronic engineer from Northern California. Another is Hossein Afshari, also from California.

At first blush, these smaller contributions to Menendez Legal Defense Fund might appear to come from a smattering of individual donors. An analysis of the donor rolls by Responsible Statecraft and The Intercept, however, shows that about 15 percent of the people who gave to Menendez — including Moeinimanesh and Afshari — are linked to an Iranian exile group called the Mojahedin e-Khalq, or MEK.”

The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is an Iranian political-militant organization advocating for the overthrow of the current Iranian government. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by Iran and several other countries.

Menendez recently pleaded not guilty to his charges. The senator, his wife Nadine Menendez, and businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes are scheduled to go on trial on May 6.

Two Democrats are currently vying for the Senate nomination in New Jersey, Congressman Andy Kim and the Garden State’s first lady, Tammy Murphy. Democrats currently hold 51 seats in the Senate.

This article originally appeared on New Conservative Post. Used with Permission.

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