Menendez's Trial Opens With Denunciation, Denial

Prosecutor says senator traded power for gold; defense lawyer calls client 'an American patriot'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2024 4:27 PM CDT
Prosecutor: Menendez Sold His Senate Power
Sen. Bob Menendez, right, sits with his defense team during jury selection on Tuesday at Manhattan federal court in New York.   (Candace E. Eaton via AP)

At the opening of US Sen. Bob Menendez's trial, a prosecutor pointed the finger at him, calling the New Jersey Democrat corrupt and telling a federal jury in New York on Wednesday that he traded his power for bribes of gold bars, cash, and a car. Later, Menendez's lawyer called prosecutors "dead wrong." Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz said the 70-year-old politician delivered favors for three New Jersey businessmen since 2018, the AP reports. And she put his wife, Nadine Menendez, at the center of the crimes, saying the scheme started in 2018 when he and his wife-to-be had begun dating. Pomerantz said the senator avoided written communication involving the bribery scheme.

"He was careful not to send too many texts," she said, adding he had Nadine Menendez do it for him. "He used Nadine as his go-between to deliver messages to and from the people paying bribes." Nadine Menendez is charged in the case, but her trial has been delayed until at least July because of a medical condition that requires surgery. She has pleaded not guilty. The three-term senator also has insisted since his fall arrest that he's not guilty of bribery, fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice, or acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. He has said his interactions with the governments of Egypt and Qatar were proper.

When his lawyer, Avi Weitzman, delivered his opening statement, he called Menendez "an American patriot" who "took no bribes and did not accept any cash, or gold, or a car," per the AP. Weitzman added: "He was never and is not a foreign agent of the government of Egypt. He did not violate the law period." Pomerantz said that the businessmen showered Menendez and his wife with gifts to ensure Menendez would help them and that evidence will show that the fingerprints and DNA of one of his codefendants was on cash found in his home. Menendez has said he will not be seeking reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall but has not ruled out running as an independent.

(More Bob Menendez stories.)

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