(JTA) — Sen. Robert Menendez, who has championed intensified sanctions against Iran over the objections of the White House, was indicted on public corruption charges.
A federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., indicted Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday for allegedly doing political favors for a friend and political contributor in exchange for gifts.
Menendez denies the charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, which were levied after a two-year investigation. The friend — Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based ophthalmologist and businessman — also was charged.
The two-term senator has said he will remain in office during the trial phase of the case.
Menendez is a lead sponsor of a bill that adds sanctions on Iran should it walk away from negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program. Obama has said new sanctions would be detrimental to the talks, which are taking place in Switzerland.
Menendez spoke last month at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference.
“Bob Menendez’s leadership on the U.S.-Israel relationship is extraordinary,” former AIPAC President Lonny Kaplan wrote Wednesday in the New Jersey Jewish News. “He is the embodiment of a profile in courage, a leader who stands up for principled ideals, and does not waver, no matter the intensity of the opposition to his views.
Kaplan added that Menendez “is the bulwark against a bad nuclear deal with Iran.”