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“Under Indictment, Sen. Menendez Skips Classified Briefing on Israel”

Indicted U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey will not attend a classified briefing on the status of Israel due to his ongoing legal troubles.

The briefing, which is scheduled for Thursday, is supposed to be hosted by the State Department, the White House and the Department of Defense. It is expected to cover issues such as security, the Iran nuclear deal and regional stability.

Menendez, a Democrat, is currently facing several federal corruption and bribery charges stemming from his relationship with a Florida ophthalmologist. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In a statement released Thursday, Menendez said it would be inappropriate for him to attend the meeting in light of his current legal situation.

“Given the serious nature of my case with the Department of Justice, I have decided that it would not be appropriate to attend the classified briefing tomorrow,” he said in the statement.

Menendez is one of the most senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has long been a staunch defender of U.S.-Israel relations. He has strongly criticized the Iran nuclear deal and has pushed for more robust sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

He has also advocated for more financial and military support for Israel, including additional defense aid and military hardware.

Menendez’s legal case has been an ongoing distraction for the senator, as well as for his party. The case has cast a long shadow over his re-election bid this year and threatens to damage the Democrats’ chances of holding onto the U.S. Senate in November.

The indictment may also be an obstacle for the Obama Administration’s ambitious foreign policy agenda going into the last months of the president’s second term.

It is unclear who will represent New Jersey and the Democratic leadership at the classified briefing on Thursday. It is likely that someone will be appointed to take Menendez’s place, though that decision has not yet been made.

In the meantime, it is expected that the senator’s misfortune will have a major impact on the debate surrounding U.S.-Israeli relations in the months ahead.

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