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Federal corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez set to start Monday

Sen. Bob Menendez, the three-term New Jersey Democrat who once chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is set to stand trial on federal bribery and obstruction charges starting Monday. 

Two New Jersey businessmen who allegedly traded luxurious bribes for Menendez’s political influence will be tried alongside him, while a third businessman pleaded guilty and Menendez’s wife, Nadine, will be tried at a later date.  

The Democratic senator’s trial will take place just steps from the Manhattan courthouse where former President Trump — the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee — is already on trial on charges he falsified business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn actress ahead of the 2016 election. 

Federal prosecutors accused Menendez and his wife in September of agreeing to and accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for the senator’s political power, which they said enriched the businessmen and Egypt.  

The bribes were allegedly paid in the form of cash, gold, home mortgage payments, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and other lavish gifts.  

When federal agents searched the Menendezes’ New Jersey home in June 2022, they said they found more than $480,000 in cash, much of it stuffed into envelopes or hidden in clothing, closets and a safe. They also reportedly found more than $100,000 worth of gold bars.  

Several superseding indictments followed, piling on allegations against the New Jersey Democrat, his wife and the businessmen.  

The Menendezes and one of the businessmen, Wael Hana, were in October 2023 accused of conspiring to act as foreign agents of Egypt.  

The charges were updated in January to claim the senator accepted gifts from the Qatari government and helped another businessman, Fred Daibes, obtain millions in investment funds from the country.  

And in March, prosecutors charged Menendez directly with bribery, extortion and acting as a foreign agent, an update to the conspiracy charges he previously faced.  

That latest indictment — filed after the third businessman, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion — also newly accused the defendants of conspiring to cover up the alleged bribery scheme as prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York worked the case.  

New allegations that Menendez and his wife falsely characterized their knowledge of the convertible payment and a more than $23,000 payment Hana made toward Nadine Menendez’s mortgage emerged after Uribe’s guilty plea, as well.

As part of his deal, Uribe agreed to testify truthfully if called upon in the trial. 

Menendez, his wife and the two businessmen have pleaded not guilty to all charges. The New Jersey Democrat has staunchly maintained his innocence, but said he would not enter his political party’s primary.  

“I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election,” Menendez said in March

It’s yet to be seen whether the senator himself will take the stand in his own defense. Menendez told CBS News that it’s “to be determined” whether he testifies, but that he plans to attend the trial daily, “subject to the schedule.” 

Against federal prosecutors’ wishes, Nadine Menendez’s case was severed from the others and her trial rescheduled for later this year after her lawyers informed the court that she would undergo a surgical procedure for a “serious medical condition.”  

The New Jersey senator stepped away from his position as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year after he was first indicted, in line with Democratic Conference rules.  

He’s one of three congressmen who have faced criminal charges in recent months, in addition to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and now-expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.). 

Menendez previously faced federal corruption charges in 2015, but they were dropped in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict.  

Jury selection is slated to start Monday morning, and once a jury is empaneled, opening statements in the senator’s trial will begin. 

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