Senator Bob Menendez “put his power up for sale,” prosecutors argue in a bribery trial

A jury of twelve selected for the trial of Senator Bob Menendez


A jury of twelve selected for the trial of Senator Bob Menendez

01:26

After prosecutors portrayed Sen. Bob Menendez as a “corrupt” politician who “put his power up for sale” in pursuit of lucrative bribes, the New Jersey Democrat's counsel laid the blame on his wife as opening statements began Wednesday afternoon with his bribery. process.

Menendez is accused of trading his influence and power to foreign governments and three New Jersey businessmen in a complex bribery scheme that stretched from 2018 to 2023.

Twelve jurors and six alternates were sworn in before Justice Department prosecutors and Menendez's attorneys laid out their case.

Menendez is being tried along with two businessmen: Wael Hana, owner of the halal meat company IS EG Halal, and Fred Daibes, a real estate developer. All three have pleaded not guilty.

A third businessman charged, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty in March and admitted to buying Menendez's wife, Nadine, a $60,000 Mercedes convertible to influence the senator. Uribe will testify at trial, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz said.

“Government officials are supposed to serve the public,” Pomerantz said. “Menendez was a powerful elected official and corrupt. He betrayed the people he was supposed to serve for bribes. Gold bars. A fake job for his wife. Mercedes Benz.'

In four indictments, prosecutors laid out a complicated web of accusations against Menendez, his wife and the three businessmen, involving a monopoly on halal meat, the Egyptian and Qatari governments and various criminal investigations.

Pomerantz tried to simplify the case for the jurors by breaking it into three parts: Menendez allegedly pressured a U.S. Department of Agriculture official to protect a business monopoly that Egypt had awarded to Hana; interfering with a criminal investigation and prosecution by the New Jersey Attorney General's office involving Uribe and his associates; and attempted to influence a federal prosecution of a Daibes.

Menendez used his wife as a “go-between” with those accused of bribing him, Pomerantz alleged.

Nadine Menendez does probably play a central role in the test. The indictments depicted her as a middleman between her husband, Egyptian intelligence and military officials and the New Jersey businessmen who sought political favors from the senator.

She was originally scheduled to be tried alongside her husband, but her trial is expected to take place later this summer due to a “serious medical conditionThat requires surgery and weeks of recovery. She has pleaded not guilty.


The indictment against Senator Bob Menendez is dissected

02:49

“Nadine dazzled Bob,” said Menendez's attorney, Avi Weitzman.

Although Menendez moved to her home in Edgewater, New Jersey, the two lived largely separate lives, with separate finances and cell phone plans, Weitzman said, as he prepared to pin the blame on the senator's wife.

Nadine Menendez was often supported by others and had financial problems before meeting the senator, according to Weitzman. When she sought financial help from the businessmen, the senator was left in the dark, he said.

Menendez was not a foreign agent but a longtime official who did not accept bribes, including cash, gold or a car, the lawyer said.

“Mark my words, no witness will testify if he sees Menendez accepting or soliciting a bribe,” Weitzman claimed.

During a search of the couple's home before they were charged last year, investigators found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and more than a dozen gold bars worth more than $100,000.

Weitzman said the money could be explained by Menendez withdrawing hundreds of dollars from his bank account every month and storing them at home due to trauma from his past. He tried to challenge prosecutors' claims that the money belonged to the other defendants, saying some notes were no longer even in circulation.

“This has to do with his upbringing,” he said, explaining that Menendez's parents were Cuban immigrants who kept cash at home.

As for the gold bars, Weitzman said Menendez believed they came from his wife's family. The gold bars were found in her locked cabinet, which Weitzman said the senator did not have a key to. He claimed that owning gold bars was a cultural norm for Nadine Menendez, who was born in Lebanon to Armenian parents.

Prosecutors say they have evidence that the senator repeatedly searched the Internet for the price of gold after receiving gold bars from Daibes.

Lawyers for Hana and Daibes are expected to make their opening statements on Thursday.

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