Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Sen. Bob Menendez pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courtroom Monday to a charge alleging he conspired to act as a foreign agent for Egypt while accepting bribes from January 2018 to at least June 2022.
Menendez, D-N.J., pleaded not guilty to the additional criminal charge, announced last week by the Justice Department. The charge was detailed in a superseding indictment on Oct. 12. It is illegal for a member of Congress or any public official to act as a foreign agent.
"The government's latest charge flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and in challenging leaders of that country, including President El-Sisi on these issues," Menendez said in a statement after the new charges were filed.
"I have been throughout my life, loyal to only one country -- the United States of America, the land my family chose to live in democracy and freedom," he added.
Menendez's co-defendants, which include his wife, Nadine Menendez, and businessman Wael Hana, entered pleas of not guilty to the new charges in Manhattan court last week. A trial date has been set for May.
The defendants had already previously been accused of bribery, with claims that Menendez and his spouse received "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes," gold bars, and a Mercedes convertible in exchange for exploitation of their political clout.
The indictment also accused Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes of being involved in the corruption.
Hana, an Egyptian-American, is the founder of a halal meat certification company. Uribe is a former insurance agent, and Daibes is a real estate developer.
Following his indictment last month, Menendez stepped down from his role as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, however, there's a growing call from lawmakers for him to relinquish his Senate seat in response to the corruption accusations.
Menendez has maintained his innocence regarding all the charges.
"Everything I've accomplished I've worked for despite the naysayers and everyone who has underestimated me," Menendez said on Sept. 25. "I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey's senior senator."