Trial of Sen. Bob Menendez Kicks Off with Opening Statements

The bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is set to begin with opening statements on Wednesday as prosecutors aim to convince a jury that the long-time influential Democrat was willing to trade his power for personal gain, accepting cash, gold bars, and a luxury car in return for favors to benefit three businessmen.

Despite denying his guilt since his arrest, the three-term senator faces charges of using his position to assist three New Jersey businessmen, including providing favors to the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

According to prosecutors, the businessmen lavished Menendez and his wife with gifts in exchange for his help.

Menendez, aged 70, is being tried in Manhattan federal court alongside two of the businessmen. A third individual has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants, while Menendez’s wife is scheduled to stand trial in July.

This trial is the second time in the last decade that Menendez has faced criminal charges in federal court. In 2017, a jury in New Jersey was deadlocked on corruption charges, and prosecutors did not pursue a retrial.

The charges from that case were separate from the current prosecution of Menendez, who was forced to relinquish his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the new charges came to light last year.

Judge Sidney H. Stein stated Tuesday evening that he anticipated having a jury selected by mid-morning on Wednesday at the latest, with opening statements to follow shortly after.

Menendez is standing trial alongside Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer, and businessman Wael Hana, all of whom have pleaded not guilty.

The indictment alleges that Daibes provided Menendez and his wife with gold bars and cash to secure the senator’s assistance in finalizing a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund by acting favorably towards Qatar’s government.

Additionally, the indictment claims that Menendez took actions that benefited Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from Hana, who was securing a lucrative deal with the Egyptian government regarding the certification of imported meat meeting Islamic dietary requirements.

Menendez has announced that he will not seek reelection as a Democrat this fall, though he has not ruled out running as an independent candidate.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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