Bob Menendez: What you need to know about the New Jersey Democrat’s trial


A sitting U.S. senator faces a weeklong trial for accepting bribes, including gold bars, cash and a luxury car, to, among other things, help to funnel American aid and weapons to a foreign government and to stop a federal case against one of his co-defendants. .

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who faces 16 charges including conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to obstruct justice, has rejected calls to resign and, even though he won’t run in the state primary, he left that possibility open. for an independent run after his trial.

The senator told CNN’s Manu Raju on Capitol Hill last week, “I can’t wait to prove my innocence,” when asked repeatedly if he would resign in the face of possible conviction.

Prosecutors say Menendez and his wife, Nadine, helped several New Jersey businessmen — all accused of conspiracy — secure lucrative contracts with Egyptian and Qatari officials and tried to pressure authorities to they put an end to investigations into businessmen and their associates.

Jury selection for the trial continues Tuesday after more than 30 of 150 potential jurors were dismissed Monday after being questioned by presiding Judge Sidney Stein about scheduling conflicts or difficulties they might encounter while sitting for a trial lasting four to six weeks.

The defense teams, which include Menendez’s co-defendants, New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, recently hired a consulting firm to help with jury selection and other matters, said to CNN a source close to the matter.

When potential jurors return Tuesday, they will face questions from Stein about their knowledge of the case to eliminate any bias that would skew their opinions about the case or the evidence presented at trial.

Stein, appointed by Clinton, has not yet ruled on the questionnaires proposed to the jury. Defense attorneys suggested asking jurors myriad questions, including whether they think someone from New Jersey is “more likely to break the law.”

Menendez is on trial with two of his co-defendants: Hana, an Egyptian-American businessman, and Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer. The senator’s wife will be tried in July.

Here’s what you need to know:

According to the indictment, Hana and Nadine Menendez — who had been friends for years before they began dating the senator in 2018 — worked together to put the senator in contact with several Egyptian officials to help obtain the American military aid as well as an exclusive contract with Hana’s company.

Prosecutors say the contract made Hana’s company the only company capable of certifying that U.S. food exports to Egypt met halal standards.

Menendez, who at the time held senior positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position with power over foreign military sales, met several times with Hana’s contacts in the Egyptian military and helped guide U.S. military sales and aid to the country, prosecutors say. .

The indictment also alleges that Menendez wrote a letter on behalf of the Egyptian government to try to persuade other senators to lift the freeze on $300 million in aid.

In addition to his alleged agreement to use his position to facilitate military sales and financing to Egypt, Menendez also passed sensitive information to his wife about who was serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, according to prosecutors. His wife, in turn, sent the information to Hana, who passed it on to an Egyptian government official.

The senator also allegedly pressured an Agriculture Ministry official to protect the halal certification monopoly that Hana had secured with Egypt for his business, through which his wife was allegedly paid for Menendez’s efforts .

Menendez’s relationships with foreign governments extended to Qatari officials, prosecutors say.

In exchange for gold bars, the price of which Menendez researched online several times, and other items, Menendez helped his co-defendant Daibes secure a multimillion-dollar investment from Qatari officials in a project real estate, according to prosecutors.

Using his power as a senator, prosecutors say Menendez tried to influence several cases in New Jersey involving his co-defendants, including talking with a high-ranking prosecutor about a case and working to recommend a candidate for the job from New Jersey, who Menendez believed would help dismiss the charges against Daibes.

Through Menendez’s efforts to pressure an official in a case, New Jersey businessman Jose Uribe and Hana bought Nadine a luxury car, prosecutors say.

In May, Uribe pleaded guilty to seven counts related to the bribery scheme involving Menendez and his co-defendants and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the case, including testifying at trial.

Ultimately, according to the indictment, Menendez’s influence campaigns failed. The New Jersey lawsuit against Daibes is ongoing.

Prosecutors say after search warrants were executed at the Menendez home — where gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were found — and elsewhere, the senator and his wife attempted to hide the pots bribery by reimbursing businessmen for bribes. a mortgage and a luxury car, pretending they were just loans.

The indictment says lawyers for both men told prosecutors — relying on statements from the married couple — that the bribes were actually loans. Menendez allegedly asked his lawyer at the time to say he was unaware of the mortgage and car payments, which prosecutors say is false.

The couple was charged with obstructing justice.

Menendez’s lawyers have hinted at several possible defenses they could present during the trial, including that the 13 gold bars and $480,000 in cash found by investigators at his home could be explained by family trauma intergenerational as well as by a psychological disorder resulting in part from the suicide of his father. .

Shortly after being indicted on corruption charges last year, Menendez told reporters that he had withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash over the course of 30 years, citing “my family’s history of being threatened with confiscation in Cuba.” .

Family trauma and his father’s death, defense attorneys say, led to a fear of scarcity through which Menendez developed “seemingly unusual” coping mechanisms.

Menendez may also try to shift blame for the alleged plot to his wife, Nadine, whose trial was delayed due to a medical issue.

“Senator Menendez intends to present a defense arguing (in part) that he lacked the requisite knowledge of much of the conduct and statements of his wife, Nadine, and that he therefore lacked scientific knowledge and did not agree to join any of the accused plots,” the lawyers said. as Menendez wrote in a court filing.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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