Nadine and Bob Menendez’s Flashy, Allegedly Corrupt, Romance

They were having a lot of fun before they were both indicted.

Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

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About halfway through The Greatest Showman, the gaudy, giddy 2017 movie-musical celebration of crowd-pleasing hokum starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, Rebecca Ferguson, playing Jenny Lind, the 19th century’s equivalent of Beyoncé, comes onstage and belts out a song called “Never Enough.” It’s a ballad of insatiability:

Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough

The song and movie hold special meaning for New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, Robert Menendez, a gregarious machine politician who is proud of his tenor (he’s known for crooning “Happy Birthday” on the phone to several constituents and political contacts every day). When the film came out, he had just beaten a federal corruption indictment — prosecutors said the senator “sold his soul for a lifestyle he couldn’t afford.” Despite the damage to his reputation, he was reelected in 2018.

But the ordeal had cost him a girlfriend. Friends say the trial and media attention ended his engagement to a woman who worked at a well-known restaurant and events space in Hackensack, the Stony Hill Inn, which he frequented.

He soon bounced back, however, and began dating Nadine Tabourian Arslanian, a tall blonde divorcée with a décolletage-first fashion sense. Thirteen years younger than the senator, Arslanian was a fun-loving fixture on the Hudson County singles scene. Menendez, who had a reputation for being something of a ladies’ man, had been divorced since 2005, but friends seemed to think he finally had found his match.

Their lives quickly became intertwined. At her urging, he repeatedly, and in the end successfully, pushed through a Senate resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide (her family is from Armenia). She influenced him in other ways, too, introducing him to an old friend, the Egyptian businessman and halal-meat mogul Wael “Will” Hana, who, according to a federal indictment handed down last month against the couple, allegedly did the bidding of the Egyptian military government. According to that indictment, Hana sought and received favors from his high-powered new friend, who happened to be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and gave the couple gifts — money, gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz — in return.

Evidence found at the Menendez home. Photo: US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York

In May 2019, Bob and Nadine embarked on a whirlwind of global travel that included visits to four continents in five months. According to the New York Times’ story of their engagement, Bob told Nadine that she would know when he was going to propose because he planned to sing a special song.

“Each time Mr. Menendez so much as cleared his throat, whether it be in Puerto Rico, Greece, Turks and Caicos or Colombia, the needle seemed to move that much closer to that special song,” the Times story states. On October 3, 2019, while they were visiting the Taj Mahal, the senator sang “Never Enough” to her before he asked her to marry him. (She was seated on the Princess Diana bench and began to cry; there’s a video of it you can watch, if you can bear the schmaltz.) A year later, they wed at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, Queens. Three years after that, they were indicted, in documents that read like a Carl Hiaasen novel mixed with a Real Housewives subplot about a late-middle-aged couple allegedly enmeshed in an audacious, slapdash Middle Eastern bribery scheme.

It’s virtually impossible to disentangle the love story of New Jersey’s showman senator and his wife from the charges against them. According to one of his friends, he had nicknamed her “Bubbles,” a reference to her cleavage, and she would swoon to a podcaster in 2020 that “he is such a perfect gentleman.” Texts cited in the indictment reveal an exceptionally affectionate relationship. But also one that seemed to thrill in a flashy lifestyle that likely attracted the Department of Justice’s attention and might just bring down his career.

Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, got his start in New Jersey Democratic-machine politics 37 years ago as the young mayor of Union City. He didn’t get into public service after the usual lucrative private-sector career. (His predecessor in the U.S. Senate, Jon Corzine, for example, had been a senior partner at Goldman Sachs.) But thanks to his charm and ruthlessness, he rose to one of the most powerful positions in Congress.

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey lodged the first corruption case against him in 2015, alleging that he exchanged favors for money from Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist and a longtime Menendez friend. It ended in a hung jury — ten of the 12 jurors wanted to acquit.

Despite the scandal, there was no serious attempt to unseat him. “It was the fear factor,” Ray Lesniak, a former state senator, told this magazine in 2018. Menendez “is such a fearsome fighter no one wants to take [him] on. Even if you lost to him, that would be sacrificing your entire political career. Bob’s from Hudson County. This kind of politics just comes with the territory.” In a solidly blue state two years into Trump’s reign, he was reelected.

Nadine was born in Beirut to Armenian parents in 1967. Her great-grandparents and other relatives had perished in the 1915 Turkish assault on ethnic Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, and she grew up surrounded with members of her family who were survivors.

Her branch of the Tabourian family had left Turkey for Lebanon. When civil war broke out there in the 1970s, Nadine was around 10 and the family emigrated to America. In 2020, The Armenian Report posted a YouTube video titled “She Was the Link.” In it, an Armenian blogger-influencer named Anna Kachikyan (one k and h away from, but not to be confused with, Red Scare podcaster Anna Khachiyan) taped an interview with Nadine a few months after Bob Menendez, in December 2019, became a hero to the global diaspora of Armenians for pushing the Senate to approve a resolution commemorating the Armenian genocide. It passed on the fourth try, against the wishes of Turkey as well as Trump, who wanted to maintain tight relations with the country’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The senator broke down in tears after the passage, speaking about how important it was that some survivors were still alive to see it. Nadine, watching him on TV, knew he was talking about her father.

The Armenian Report framed the interview as “the story behind how this Armenian woman influenced the passage of the Armenian Genocide bill in the United States.”

In the interview, Nadine weeps as she recounts the stories she’d been told about the atrocities visited on her family, including how one of her grandfather’s sisters had been tied to a tree by her hair and forced to watch her husband and baby killed. Her grandfather escaped.

Nadine went to high school in New York, then attended NYU, majoring in French culture and civilization and international politics. She graduated in the same class as future MTV reporter Tabitha Soren, then earned a master’s in 1991.

Despite her degrees and fluency in four languages, she chose a traditional path over a career. She married Raffi Arslanian, a fellow Armenian American, in 1989. He developed houses in Bergen County, and the couple moved into a modest split-level in Englewood, where they raised their two children. (This is the same home she now lives in with Senator Menendez, where the Feds found the cash and gold.)

The marriage was over by 2005. Raffi remarried quickly to a decorator who had worked with him, moved to Manhattan, and started a fragrance company named after the hotel and restaurant where he and his new wife had their first “real date,” Thompson Ferrier.

In Englewood with the kids, Nadine was a devoted mother, ferrying them to and from the Lycée Français in Manhattan, where they went to school. She would later brag on The Armenian Report that her daughter made the NYU dean’s list — whereas her mother had not, she noted — while her son was about to take a job at Goldman Sachs.

According to her friends, money was sometimes tight, and she took the occasional job as a hostess at a restaurant in Hackensack and for a while worked at a medical-testing company with reported ties to Egypt.

As the children got older, she had the time to venture into the Hudson and Bergen County dating scene. With her long blonde hair, olive skin, and showy fashion sense, she left a distinct impression at the cigar lounges, white-linen steakhouses, and red-sauce joints planted between the gas stations and big-box stores on U.S. Route 46.

Occasional habitués of the two-for-one happy-hour singles scene she sometimes frequented told me it was filled with “people who dressed flashy and a little loud.” Thursday nights were especially crowded. “That’s when divorced people went out to meet mates.” Potential matches on offer, I was told, might include mob-adjacent lawyers, some mid-tier middle-aged finance types, commercial builders, and local politicians — including, sometimes, Bob Menendez.

Menendez had been divorced from Jane Jacobsen, a teacher in Union City (where he had been mayor from 1986 to 1992) since 2005 — coincidentally the same year Nadine divorced. Menendez had two children: Alicia Menendez, now an MSNBC television commentator-host, and Rob Menendez, who followed his father into politics: a onetime commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who was elected to Congress from New Jersey in 2022.

According to friends I spoke to, the Nadine he met wasn’t a drinker. She sipped the occasional wine, preferring Diet Coke or tea. But she had a wild side. “Whenever she went out, you could see her chest. It was always three buttons down,” one ex-boyfriend said. “She likes to be seen.”

Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member Kim “Kim D” DePaola and her friends would roll their eyes when Nadine came around. “Hers are not the type of boobs that should be hanging without a bra; they hang to her knees. And no bra!” she told me cattily. “We would be like, What? We are far from prudes … and we would look at each other and just, Wow.

Nadine with The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Jacqueline Laurita, Kim D., and Caroline Manzo. Photo: Nadine Arslanian/Facebook

Sometimes her relationships ended messily. According to court records reported by Business Insider, on Christmas Day 2010, “Arslanian was arrested for entering a home … to confront someone she had been court-ordered not to contact. According to court records, she yelled and threw a photo album at the person.” One ex, a finance-industry manager, dated her for a year and a half around 2010. When they met at a restaurant in Englewood Cliffs, he said she was coming off a bad breakup. The new boyfriend came to understand why: “She was very insecure,” he said. “She was constantly showing up, anywhere, for no reason, like for instance if I had a dinner meeting with somebody at a restaurant, she would just show up.”

Hackensack lawyer Douglas Anton met her at a restaurant in Bergen County and started dating her in 2011. Anton counts among his clients R. Kelly and various mob-adjacent and Jersey reality-TV characters.

“When we met in 2011, she wasn’t working. She was getting nice alimony — that’s public record — but she’s an intelligent woman, an NYU graduate,” he says. In his observation, the alimony didn’t go too far considering the children’s private-school tuition. “I told her she should get a job, and she said, ‘I want to work with you.’” Anton never did hire her in an official capacity, although they collaborated in various ways. Once, he said, they ran into a Dubai sheikh in the lobby of the swanky George V hotel in Paris who was having trouble getting his point across to a clerk. Nadine, fluent in French and Arabic, translated for him. Anton says the sheikh eventually became a client in a highly profitable relationship, which he gives her some credit for helping develop.

It was Anton who introduced Nadine to reality-show figures and other demi-celebrities of New Jersey, including DePaola. Another was his client John Alite, a Gambino-crime-family associate who testified against John Gotti Jr., went clean, and now hosts The Oddest Couple podcast. He agreed that things were tight for her. “He would take care of the kids financially, not her,” he says of her ex. “Her house was not in good shape. Everything on the inside was run-down. It needed new furniture, it was not painted, work needed to be done in the molding and flooring. It is in a nice area; she just didn’t have the money.”

Nadine with Doug Anton in Jordan, 2016. Photo: Courtesy of John Alite

In 2017, Anton and Nadine went to Cuba together. Anton wanted to start a cigar company with Nadine that he planned to call Anton De Cardenas. They wanted to use Cuban tobacco seeds and plant them in Cuban soil shipped to the Dominican Republic to sell them as genuine Cubano. The enterprise fell through when the law changed and Cubans could sell their cigars anywhere. (The ban has since been reinstated.) The couple traveled around Cuba and visited a club that reminded Anton of a Godfather II scene set in Cuba. (It was actually filmed in the Dominican Republic.)

“I gave her the Fredo kiss,” he says. “She’d never seen The Godfather. I had to explain it to her.”

Not long after that — maybe she should have seen it coming given that Fredo kiss — Anton says the couple hit a rough patch. She wanted to get married. He didn’t. They broke up, and Nadine started dating Menendez.

A tumultuous year ensued during which Nadine bounced back and forth between the two men. She and Anton went to a holiday party at the end of 2017 and posted a videotape of themselves singing. The photo of them together, Nadine in an off-the-shoulder black dress, is said to have provoked Menendez to such extreme jealousy that Anton alleges the senator sent Capitol police to Anton’s Hackensack office.

This magazine attempted to obtain Capitol police records but was unable to, and Menendez’s team wouldn’t address these allegations on the record. In any case, Anton insists that, whatever might have happened back then, all is long since forgiven.

”Please make sure you say she did not cheat on me,” he said. “I told her please go back to Bob. She got busted with me, and he said, ‘If you’re lying, I will never see you again.’ I knew he wanted me to be as far away as possible, and I get it. He loved her, and when he saw that picture of us together and her in that dress, he went crazy.”

Alite remembers the period differently. He says Anton was so terrified of Menendez that he habitually called Alite to walk him to his car if he left his office after dark. Menendez “was intelligently threatening Doug, physically, and with his connections, he’d have looked at having him disbarred. Doug was hounding me with phone calls to come around because he was scared. He was really freaked. That was the most nervous I have ever seen a guy, and I used to do this kind of work.”

According to numerous people I spoke with, the meet-cute story the couple told the Times — at a Union City IHOP in 2018 — was not quite accurate. Many of their friends think Nadine met Menendez on the political-events circuit long before that, although they were not romantically connected yet. “She always knew Bob. I think she met him at an event in 2008 in Saddle River or Franklin Lakes,” one ex-boyfriend told me. (NJ.com also reported they met “almost a decade” before 2018 at the IHOP.)

But by early 2018, with the Anton relationship definitely over with, Bob and Nadine were together.

For Nadine, the relationship came with a lot of perks, including access to political power, invitations to swanky parties, and a chance to put her NYU international-politics degree and her fluency in Arabic to work. And she discovered that she could finally help out her old friend Wael Hana.

Wael “Will” Hana with Bob and Nadine Menendez. Photo: Courtesy of John Alite

Hana, an Egyptian Copt — and thus a Middle Eastern Christian like Nadine’s family — won a visa lottery and came to the U.S. in 2006. But after more than a decade in America, he had not had much good fortune. He’d tried and failed to start a limo company, a truck stop, an Italian restaurant. He was in debt, in a mess of legal trouble for allegedly passing bad checks and other business infractions, had been charged with driving while intoxicated, and would lose his home to foreclosure in 2018.

Nadine knew Hana through a dapper octogenarian lawyer named Antranig “Andy” Aslanian, who had represented Hana in various legal matters. (Despite the one-letter difference between their surnames, Aslanian is not related to Nadine’s ex-husband. They are all, however, Armenians.)

I met Aslanian at his office on a leafy street in Fort Lee. He has said that he considered Hana to be “my No. 1 son.” Aslanian felt sorry for him, alone in the U.S. with his family back in Egypt and trying to become a success without much success. He gave Hana space in his small office, and the two men frequently dined out together. (Anton told me that he met Hana for the first time at Aslanian’s office.) At one of these meals, at a diner a few blocks from their shared office, at least ten years ago, Aslanian told me, Nadine happened to walk in and he introduced her to Hana. (Aslanian has told reporters that he was subpoenaed and questioned by federal prosecutors about Hana’s relationship with the Menendezes.)

Nadine had more in common with Hana than their status as members of Middle Eastern Christian minorities. They seemed to share a taste for a high-end lifestyle their financial circumstances didn’t always afford them. An unnamed western diplomat who spoke to the Times recalled meeting Hana in Egypt at a lunch during which the Egyptian spent 20 minutes talking about his Rolex collection. Hana “was such a character” that the diplomat wrote about their first meeting in his diary: Hana “was wearing an absurdly expensive suit, gold Rolex, gold rings. Spoke confidently, but softly, so you had to really listen.”

Nadine the night of her car accident in 2018. Photo: Bogota Police Department

The first year of Bob and Nadine’s romance ended in tragedy: On the evening of December 12, 2018, Nadine was driving her black Mercedes through Bogota, New Jersey, when she ran down a man named Richard Koop, who died at the scene. When police arrived, she said Koop had jumped out of nowhere onto her windshield. Body-cam video shows her dressed in a black mini and short black furry coat, earrings dangling to her shoulders, shivering and at first declining to give a statement until she had an attorney. She continued, “I don’t want to say anything wrong.”

On the video, a man’s voice in the background identifies himself as a retired Hackensack cop, confirming with the police behind the body cam that “she is not criminally being charged” and explaining, “That’s my buddy’s wife who is friends with her, who said ‘Can you do me a favor and take her up there?’ because her friend just got in a car accident.”

The police sent her on her way, not charged or tested for alcohol. She declined to hand over her phone to see if she had been texting while driving — an infraction for which she has been cited twice, according to records of five traffic violations she racked up that were unearthed by Politico New Jersey.

Strangely, perhaps, given the traffic-fatality-centric appetites of the local news, this one went uncovered. The family of the dead man later told reporters — who extracted the case record from deep in local police files after the Menendez indictment — that they found that suspicious. (The New Jersey state attorney general’s public-integrity unit is now reexamining the case.)

Her Mercedes was totaled. But within a few months things were looking up for her and Hana. In April 2019, the Egyptian government informed Hana that he was being awarded a monopoly on a new business he’d formed, and his became the only company certifying halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt, despite the fact that Hana was not Muslim and had never run a halal-meat company.

A day later, Nadine texted Menendez, “Seems like halal went through. It might be a fantastic 2019 all the way around.” When U.S. Agriculture Department officials objected to the monopoly, Menendez pushed back.

According to the indictment, Hana “or his associates” paid for dinners with Bob and Nadine, which were attended by “Egyptian officials” who, according to the indictment “raised, among other things, requests related to foreign military sales and foreign military financing.” At some point, according to the indictment, the little group had worked out a deal. “In exchange for Menendez and Nadine Menendez’s promise that Menendez would, among other things, use his power and authority to facilitate such sales and financing to Egypt, Hana promised, among other things, to put Nadine on the payroll of his company in a low-or-no-show job.”

Around then, Menendez was texting materials to Nadine to pass on to Hana — sometimes using an encrypted messaging app but often not. “Sensitive, non-public” information about Egyptians working at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt was sent, without encryption, along with a lobbying letter Bob had drafted for the Egyptians to other U.S. senators requesting $300 million in aid to Egypt. The indictment says she exchanged “thousands” of texts with Hana, many of which she later deleted.

Nadine filed papers to form a consulting company called Strategic International Business Consultants in June 2019, the same day a mortgage company initiated foreclosure proceedings against Nadine for the split-level in Englewood, where Menendez was living part time. Before the deadline, Hana forked over approximately $23,000 to bring the mortgage current. When a middleman balked at the amount, Nadine, according to the indictment, “replied, in part, ‘When I feel comfortable and plan the trip to Egypt he [i.e., Hana] will be more powerful than the president of Egypt.’”

Prosecutors included in the first indictment a text Nadine wrote to a relative about her new enterprise: “every time I’m in [sic] a middle person for a deal I am asking to get paid and this is my consulting company.” Hana’s company issued three $10,000 checks to Nadine’s company, dated August 30, September 28, and November 5, 2019. When the first check was delayed, she texted Menendez “I am soooooo upset” that Hana had not left her an envelope. She sent another text to Menendez, according to the indictment, further airing her annoyance: “I have been so upset all morning. Will left for Egypt yesterday supposedly and now thinks he’s king of the world and has both countries wrapped around his pinky. I really hope they replace him.”

But things soon began to look ominous for the trio. In November 2019, federal agents searched Hana’s home and office in an unrelated case. They seized, according to the Times, electronic devices, papers, notepads, a photo album, and even a gold cigarette case, plus his two Rolex watches. The Times reported that Hana filed papers to try to get his Rolexes back, but whether he did or not is unclear.

In 2019, prosecutors say Hana’s business was doing well enough that he could afford to help facilitate the purchase of a new $60,000 Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible (to replace the totaled Mercedes from the fatal accident four months prior) for Nadine. After the purchase was complete, according to the indictment, she texted her husband, “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.”

In October 2020, the couple wed at a small COVID-era ceremony in Queens. According to the indictment, the social and financial relationship among Nadine, Menendez, and Hana continued throughout the following year to the benefit of all. Two days after a private meeting between the senator and an Egyptian official in June 2021, Hana purchased 22 one-ounce gold bars, each with a unique serial number, according to the indictment. Two of these bars were subsequently found during the court-authorized search of Nadine’s split-level; authorities says she sold others in New York and deposited the money.

In October 2021, Nadine and Bob went to Egypt. On their return, a driver for one of the scheme’s alleged middlemen, a Genovese-crime-family-connected New Jersey businessman named Fred Daibes, picked up the couple at JFK. A day later, according to the indictment, Menendez searched the web for “How much is one kilo of gold worth?”

The federal harvest of Nadine’s thousands of texts is a cringe-worthy record of reckless abandon. In January 2022, she fired off one to Daibes (for whom Menendez, per the indictment, was trying to intervene with the Feds in a bank-fraud case). After his driver allegedly delivered thousands of dollars of cash to her in an envelope, she texted: “Thank you. Christmas in January.” Daibes’s lawyer did not respond for comment.

Bob Menendez and wife Nadine in the White House on May 16, 2022. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Six months later, in June 2022, the FBI searched the Englewood house Menendez now shared with Nadine. Color photographs of some of the nearly $500,000 in cash stuffed in Menendez’s Senate-bomber-jacket pockets and gold bars found in the home would decorate the indictment.

Nadine’s lawyer had no comment on the indictment’s allegations. Senator Menendez’s office called the charges “outrageous” and “absurd” and contended the senator has a record of “standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt, and challenging leaders of the country, including President El-Sisi.” Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence Lustberg, said his client is innocent, has cooperated with the government, and “has nothing to hide,” adding that Hana’s company “was awarded its halal certification contract with Egypt without any assistance whatsoever from Senator Menendez or any other U.S. public official.”

Many questions remain. A search of a sitting senator’s home, especially one as powerful as the then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is highly unusual. But it seems likely that the federal prosecutors had been convinced of his guilt the first time around and had kept a close eye on him since. Then Nadine came on the scene.

“My guess is this has a been a way of life for Bob Menendez for a long time,” said one New Jersey politician familiar with the ways of the Democratic machine that gave Menendez his start half a century ago. “This is the conduct of a local official who never got set right. Nobody has their first crime be accepting cash and gold bars from a foreign government. You do not go from zero to 60 the day you get a driver’s license.”

One theory popular in the New Jersey legal-political community is that at least some of the bribe money was facilitated by the Feds, perhaps delivered by a confidential informant among the other named indictees. The theory is that some of the money might have been what federal agents call a “controlled drop,” that is, cash provided by the government; identifiable in some way, thus making it bulletproof evidence; and delivered by a cooperating informant. “He got away once, and they were not going to lose this time,” one lawyer and friend of Menendez’s said.

The assurance of finding government-marked bills in the house would be a powerful incitement for a judge to authorize a search. Such evidence would also destroy Menendez’s explanation for keeping half a million dollars around his house: that he periodically withdrew large wads of cash from ATMs as insurance against revolution or social collapse, a family habit picked up from his parents, who feared confiscation in Cuba.

It took 15 months from the house search to the indictment. For more than a year, while the Department of Justice had evidence that Menendez collected cash and gold bars for favors to a foreign government, the powerful senator still had access to unknown quantities of classified information.

The couple arrive for a court appearance at Manhattan Federal Court on September 27. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

A few weeks after the September 27 arraignment, prosecutors added a second indictment charging the couple with acting as foreign agents for Egypt. Acting as a foreign agent was explicitly forbidden for Menendez as a member of Congress and would only be legal for Nadine if she had registered as such under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The second indictment quotes Nadine at a D.C. steakhouse dinner, asking a general the Times identified as the top Egyptian spy in America, “What else can the love of my life do for you?”

The intelligence agents are not named in the indictment except as Egyptian officials Nos. 3 and 5. But the Times has reported that they are General Ahmed Helmy, Cairo’s top spy in the U.S., and General Abbas Kamel, the chief of Egypt’s intelligence service. Their goal was audacious: ensuring that the senator lift restrictions on a fraction of the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. has given to Egypt annually since the 1970s as reward for signing the Camp David peace treaty with Israel. The U.S. had withheld $85 million this year and $130 million last year of that money in protest against the military dictatorship’s corruption and human-rights abuses. The indictment indicates that Menendez, one of only four members of Congress with power to stop such transfers, had previously been insisting Egypt be held accountable for human-rights issues but stopped objecting to the funds’ release after repeated meetings with Egyptian spies.

Nadine, according to the Feds, organized and attended numerous dinners with Bob and high-level Egyptian intelligence agents, who relayed Egyptian requests for military and other American aid. At some of the dinners, according to the indictments, the participants talked about how the senator would be compensated. According to the second indictment, she had meetings and communications with multiple Egyptian officials, “at least some of whom she understood were intelligence officials.”

After being arraigned on the second indictment accusing him of acting as an agent for Egypt, Menendez claimed to be a victim of persecution. “The government is engaged in primitive hunting, by which the predator chases its prey until it’s exhausted and then kills it.”

Lustberg, Hana’s lawyer, added a more direct denial: “The recent allegation that Mr. Hana was part of a plot concocted over dinner to enlist Senator Menendez as an agent of the Egyptian Government is, as the evidence will show, completely false.”

The question of whether Nadine knew what she was allegedly getting the two of them into remains unanswered. As of yet, there does not seem to be any direct evidence that she was, from the start, somehow an Egyptian intelligence asset, although a former FBI agent I spoke with entertained that idea to me: “I wouldn’t be surprised if she mentioned that she knew Menendez and these guys told her if you can figuratively get in bed with him — and she did literally do that — then they set out to influence him,” he suggested. ”And she understood what they wanted and set out to see if she could cultivate him. And it probably went better than they hoped.”

Her finance-industry ex thought she was probably motivated by simple greed. “I think she knew exactly what she was doing. She wanted to live the high life,” he told me.

Anton refuses to believe his former girlfriend would or could knowingly engage in a crime, much less mastermind one. “She is a very, very respectful mate to a man. In general, Nadine would be inquisitive and she would defer to someone with knowledge in the field,” he says. “It’s not something she thought was illegal. He knew the ethics rules; she didn’t. It’s not like she made the decisions. She wrote ‘Christmas in January’? Well, it’s not ‘Fuck, we beat the law!’”

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Nadine and Bob Menendez’s Flashy, Allegedly Corrupt, Romance