Below is my column in the New York Post on issuance of superseding indictments for Sen. Bob Menendez, his wife, and associates to include new charges related to his alleged work as unregistered foreign agents. The new charges not only highlight the alleged corrupt practices of Sen. Menendez, but also the absence of such charges for Hunter Biden.
Here is the column:
The Justice Department this week hit Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) with a superseding indictment including a new but all-too-familiar charge: being an unregistered foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
I cannot recall another sitting member of Congress being criminally charged as a foreign agent.
Yet even if this is the first such case, the charge has been freely used by the Justice Department in all but one case: Hunter Biden.
The indictment accuses Menendez of being a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt.
Also charged under the law is Menendez’s wife, Nadine, and Egyptian American businessman Wael Hana.
After they discussed various foreign policy priorities at one dinner, Nadine is quoted as asking her Egyptian counterparts, “What else can the love of my life do for you?”
The government alleges that the couple agreed to have Menendez “use his power and authority to facilitate such sales and financing to Egypt.” In addition to other benefits, the government alleges that Hana promised to put Nadine on the payroll of his company in a “low-or-no-show job.”
The indictment further alleges that the senator disclosed “nonpublic information about the United States’s provision of military aid to Egypt” during a dinner with Hana in 2018.
It also claims that the senator “secretly edited and ghost-wrote” a letter “on behalf of Egypt” trying to convince other senators to release a hold on $300 million in aid to the country.
The inclusion of the FARA charge against Menendez, his wife and his associate only highlights the absence of any such charge against President Biden’s son Hunter.
For years, some of us have raised the glaring contradiction in how the Justice Department has approached the Hunter Biden case with its treatment of past defendants like Donald Trump associate Paul Manafort.
The Justice Department has been quick to indictment Manafort and others on FARA charges, but continues to prevaricate over such a charge for the president’s son.
Indeed, when Menendez was charged, I wrote about the striking similarities in the cases, including the gifts and benefits showered on both men.
They remain similar in every way except the charges.
FARA covers anyone acting as “agent of a foreign principal,” including but not limited to (1) attempting to influence federal officials or the public on domestic or foreign policy or the political or public interests in favor of a foreign country; (2) collecting or disbursing money and or other things of value within the United States; or (3) representing the interests of the foreign principal before U.S. Government officials or agencies.
It is sweeping. So is the definition of what a “foreign principal” encompasses, including “a foreign government, a foreign political party, any person outside the United States (except U.S. citizens who are domiciled within the United States), and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.”
It is easy to see why FARA charges have been quickly brought in cases ranging from Manafort to Menendez. It is less clear why such charges remains strikingly absent from the Hunter case.
In Hunter’s case, he was selling what associate Devon Archer called the “Biden brand” and asking, to paraphrase Nadine Menendez, “What else can [my dad] do for you?”
The House committees have confirmed not only millions transferred to Hunter and other Biden family members, but direct contacts made by Hunter with federal officials and agencies in relation to his foreign clients.
Archer described how Burisma executives told Hunter that they were worried about the anti-corruption investigation of Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin.
Archer testified that Hunter immediately “called D.C.” in response to the plea.
Shokin was later fired at Vice President Joe Biden’s demand.
In shaking down a Chinese source for more money, Hunter reportedly sent a WhatsApp message that reminded him that “The Bidens are the best at doing exactly what Chairman wants.”
The message was to Gongwen (“Kevin”) Dong, a CEFC China Energy executive with close ties to the Chinese government, and included a threat that “I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled … I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.”
Throughout his open influence-peddling, emails show Hunter was fully aware of the risk of being charged under FARA.
The problem with FARA is that it would require the Bidens to publicly acknowledge their work as foreign agents and, by extension, their massive influence-peddling operation.
In one message, Hunter addressed his work for the Chinese CEFC energy company and warned:
“No matter what it will need to be a US company at some level in order for us to make bids on federal and state funded projects. Also We [sic] don’t want to have to register as foreign agents under the FCPA which is much more expansive than people who should know choose not to know. James has very particular opinions about this so I would ask him about the foreign entity.”
“James” is his uncle Jim Biden, who has also been regularly accused of corrupt influence-peddling tied to Joe Biden.
In the message, Hunter gets it. The law is indeed “expansive.”
His uncle clearly gets it. The question is why the Justice Department gets it in every case except those with targets named Biden.
For many, the question is not whether Hunter has acted as an agent of foreign principals but whether the Justice Department is acting as an agent of the principal Biden.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.