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A federal grand jury has expanded its criminal corruption probe, issuing new subpoenas in the investigation involving a leading U.S. Senate Democrat, according to NBC News.
An investigation into Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey has now expanded to include North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, another influential politician in New Jersey, the outlet reported.
A spokesperson for North Bergen told NBC News: “As they always have, Mayor Sacco and the Township of North Bergen will comply with any inquiry they receive from law enforcement and will cooperate fully.”
For several months, Menendez has been under investigation regarding allegations of accepting cash and gifts improperly from the owners of IS EG Halal, a halal meat business in Edgewater. Menendez and the company’s owners have consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to the allegations, however.
“I know of an investigation. Don’t know the scope or the subjects and, of course, stand ready to help authorities when and if they ask any questions,” Menendez said back in October, according to NBC News.
The recently issued subpoenas, including the one directed at Sacco, are unrelated to any allegations involving the meat company, according to the sources.
Instead, the subpoenas seek new information, in part, regarding specific legislative changes in New Jersey, but they are still part of the overall investigation targeting Menendez, NBC News added.
One of those who received a subpoena is the Democratic Mayor of North Bergen, Nicholas Sacco.
— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) May 12, 2023
The subpoena for Sacco was issued on Wednesday, a day after he was reelected mayor, the outlet added.
“On Wednesday morning Mayor Sacco was issued a subpoena seeking information and records regarding several different matters that he was informed are being sought in connection to an ongoing investigation that is not related to him,” said a mayoral spokesman in a statement issued Friday.
“Mayor Sacco has been assured that he is not a target of the investigation and was approached only as a potential witness, and he intends to cooperate fully and provide any requested information as he would with any law enforcement inquiry,” the spokesman noted further.
Both an FBI spokesperson and a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York, who is overseeing the federal investigation, declined to comment.
As for Menendez and IS EG Halal, there are lingering questions surrounding how the company secured an exclusive worldwide contract with Egypt for certifying halal exports, especially considering that contracts of several other firms were abruptly canceled in 2019, said NBC News.
Multiple sources familiar with the matter have indicated that certain officials at the U.S. Agriculture Department expressed concerns regarding the contract awarded to a New Jersey firm with limited experience.
The outlet notes further:
In addition, numerous sources said Menendez’s wife is friends with IS EG’s owners. Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt. Lawyers for IS EG have denied any wrongdoing, and the owners have said they won the contract with Egypt on the merits. Other firms in the industry, however, have been raising questions.
In 2015, Menendez faced federal corruption charges related to allegations of unlawfully accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor. The charges included accusations of receiving private jet flights, a luxurious hotel stay in Paris, and over $700,000 in political contributions for himself and the Democratic Party.
That case ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict, NBC News reported.
For his part, Menendez has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, and he is up for reelection again next year. But should he face charges and be forced to resign, it could have an impact on who controls the Senate.
“Democrats slightly expanded their Senate Majority to 51 seats in 2022, but they will face a staunch challenge from the Republican party as they strive to keep their majority for a third straight term,” the site Race to the White House noted.