A key watchdog calls for suspending military aid to Egypt after Menendez indictment

“In the wake of Menendez’s indictment for corruption by the Egyptian government, the United States should suspend the military aid to Egypt,” stated DAWN

The Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said: “The U.S. government immediately should suspend all military aid to Egypt pending the indictment of Senator Robert Menendez, his wife, and others who reportedly received bribes on behalf of the Egyptian government to secure support for foreign military sales and financing to the country.”

DAWN also called on Sen. Menendez to resign from the Senate and Congress to investigate all communications of Egyptian officials, agents, and lobbyists with U.S. officials in Congress, the State Department, and the White House to determine the extent of Egypt’s efforts to corrupt American political leaders.

“The shocking indictment of Sen. Menendez revealing Egypt’s bribery to secure military aid should result in a complete freeze on all aid to Egypt until every communication Egypt has had with U.S. officials is thoroughly and independently investigated,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s Executive Director. “The worst possible outcome here is if Senator Menendez goes to jail for accepting bribes from Egypt, but the White House continues to reward corrupt Egyptian officials with billions in taxpayer money.”

On September 22, U.S. prosecutors charged Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between 2013 and 2015 and again since 2021, with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes between 2018 and 2022 from New Jersey businessmen on behalf of Egypt and for other corrupt schemes. Prosecutors are accusing Menendez of breaching his official duty and using his influence and power to benefit the government of Egypt, including through providing “sensitive U.S. Government information” and other acts related to “foreign military sales and foreign military financing.”

Between 2018 and 2022, Egypt was one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the world, including $1.3 billion per year in foreign military financing and other direct government-to-government military equipment sales. Just this month, Secretary Blinken issued a waiver to release $235 million of $320 million in military aid to Egypt that Congress had withheld because of the Egyptian government’s human rights failures.

While the State Department is responsible for reviewing and approving military sales and financing, it honors “holds” placed on these transfers by the Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Sen. Menendez, who yielded substantial influence and could hold the sales and transfers from occurring. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said Menendez accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash and gold bars in exchange for using his power and influence to benefit the Egyptian dictatorship.

“This corruption scandal should serve as a wake-up call for the sinister ways – legal and illegal – that foreign dictatorships are corrupting our government and undermining our democracy to secure U.S. military and political support,” said Raed Jarrar, DAWN’s Advocacy Director. “Congress and the White House have a duty to investigate every last word of interaction between U.S. officials and Egyptians and their lobbyists to examine the depth and breadth of the Egyptian government’s corruption of our country.”

DAWN urged the Biden administration to suspend all aid to Egypt until it is able to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of all contacts by Egyptian officials, their agents, and their lobbyists with U.S. officials in Congress, the State Department and the White House, to determine the extent of Egypt’s corrupt practices.

“The Egyptian government relies on an army of highly paid Washington lobbyists to secure its billions in annual U.S. taxpayer support. Among its lobbyists are former U.S. officials, including Nadeam Elshami, former Chief of Staff for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; and Ed Royce, Former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whose work for the Egyptian government DAWN has investigated in its Lobbyist Gallery,” DAWN said. 

DAWN urged Congress to pass legislation that will limit government corruption, such as the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, and bar foreign government lobbyists from gaining access to the U.S. government, such as the “Fighting Foreign Influence Act” that imposes a lifetime ban on former U.S. officials for lobbying for foreign principals. It should also implement much-needed reforms to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

DAWN also urged members of Congress to pledge to refrain from meeting with lobbyists working on behalf of foreign governments where there is credible information implicating the governments in gross violations of human rights or international humanitarian law and to refrain from lobbying on behalf of or working for, such foreign governments when they leave public service.

Finally, DAWN called on the U.S. government to implement Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act and bar further assistance to Egypt in light of its human rights record. The Act prohibits security assistance, including arms sales, to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights.