Unpacking the Menendez Indictment

Happy Tuesday! It’s officially the end of an era: Netflix’s original DVD rental operation will close up shop on Friday after 25 years. 

If you still have a little disc in a red sleeve collecting dust on top of the DVD player you haven’t used in a decade—you might as well just leave it there. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • More than 6,000 ethnic Armenians fled Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region in Azerbaijan, to Armenia over the weekend after last week’s Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement moved the enclave more firmly under Azerbaijani control. Armenian government officials—historically backed by Moscow—warned of ethnic cleansing of the roughly 12,000 ethnic Armenians who lived in the formerly semi-autonomous region. Meanwhile, at least 200 people were injured near the unofficial capital of the region when a fuel depot exploded. The cause of that explosion is still unknown.  
  • The Biden administration announced Monday the U.S. had established diplomatic relations with two Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands and Niue, as part of an effort to strengthen ties in the region as China looks to gain influence throughout the Pacific. The diplomatic recognition came just before President Joe Biden welcomed leaders from Pacific island countries to the White House for a two-day summit focused on climate change and U.S. infrastructure investment on the islands. 
  • The Commerce Department on Monday added 28 companies from China, Russia, Pakistan, and other countries to their export blacklist, which bars U.S. companies from selling to those groups unless they’ve received a license from the U.S. government. Nine of the additions were allegedly part of a scheme to violate existing export controls and sell drone parts to a previously blacklisted company tied to the Russian security services. 
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will debate each other live on Fox News on November 30 in Georgia, the network announced Monday. The debate will be the culmination of more than a year of back-and-forth between the two governors—one running for the Republican presidential nomination, the other a prominent surrogate for President Joe Biden—from opposite sides of the country. 

Hard Cash, Gold Bars, and a Mercedes

Sen. Bob Menendez after addressing his indictment in a press conference on September 25, 2023, in Union City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Sen. Bob Menendez after addressing his indictment in a press conference on September 25, 2023, in Union City, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Tucked away between a plastic ice bin and a red cardboard box featuring the Pillsbury dough boy—with his arms theatrically extended in his trademark “ta-da” pose, proudly presenting not one but two frozen pie crusts—were stacks of $100 bills, bound by rubber bands and wrapped in aluminum foil, that would become important evidence in the federal investigation of an elaborate bribery scheme concocted by former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson. The banknotes, some $90,000 in cash of the cold, hard variety, were found in the freezer of Jefferson’s home in Washington by federal law enforcement officials who had watched him accept the money a day earlier as a bribe meant to facilitate business in Africa. Jefferson would be convicted in 2009 of taking more than $400,000 in bribes as part of his get-rich scheme.  

While there are no reports of hidden cash in the freezer, last week’s 39-page indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, the senior Democratic senator from New Jersey, detailed a wide variety of bribes Menendez allegedly accepted to benefit friends and the government of Egypt. There was money funneled through a consulting company. Mortgage payments. More than $500,000 in cash—some of which was found stuffed in Menendez’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus jacket. A sinecure for his wife. A brand new Mercedes-Benz C300 convertible. More than $100,000 in gold bars. And two exercise machines, plus an air purifier. (All that’s missing is a DVD player.) 

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