Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez faces second federal corruption trial with jury selection starting Monday

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., faces his second federal corruption trial in a decade as jury selection is set to begin Monday in Manhattan federal court, this time related to charges alleging he acted for the benefit of the Egyptian governments. and Qatar.

The 70-year-old New Jersey Democrat and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of accepting bribes from three wealthy businessmen – real estate developer Fred Daibes, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe – in his home state and for doing various favors in return. , including interfering in criminal investigations and taking measures to benefit the Egyptian and Qatari governments.

Menendez, 70, will be tried alongside two of the businessmen, Daibes and Wael Hana. All three have pleaded not guilty. Uribe pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. The trial of the senator’s wife, also indicted, is postponed until at least July for health reasons.

The three-term senator announced that he would not seek re-election this fall with the Democratic ticket, although he did not rule out running as an independent. That could complicate matters for Democrats who have a limited advantage in the U.S. Senate and can ill afford the prospect of a three-way race in Democratic stronghold New Jersey.

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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., leaves the Senate on Capitol Hill, September 28, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

After the charges were announced in September, Menendez was forced from his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The senator’s political career suffered its first major crisis in 2015 when he was indicted on charges involving a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, accused of buying Menendez’s influence through luxury vacations and contributions to countryside. At the time, Menendez steadfastly denied the accusations and vowed not to leave the Senate. A trial ended in 2017 with a deadlocked jury and federal prosecutors in New Jersey dropping the case.

Menendez not only remained in Congress, but was re-elected and retained his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. He married Nadine Menendez in 2020 after dating the couple for two years.

In the new case, federal prosecutors pointed out that FBI agents who searched the senator’s New Jersey home allegedly found a stash of gold bars, worth more than $100,000, and more than $486,000 in cash, some of it stuffed in the pockets of clothes hanging in his bag. cupboards during a raid two years ago.

Menendez remained in the Senate amid this latest indictment, ignoring calls for him to resign before his six-year term ends on January 3. Unlike in 2015, his party has largely abandoned him. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and others have called on him to resign. Democratic Rep. Andy Kim launched a campaign for Menendez’s seat the day after the indictment.

Menendez and his wife appear in New York court

Senator Bob Menendez, left, and his wife Nadine Menendez arrive at the federal courthouse in New York, September 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon, file)

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His Democratic colleagues in Washington, D.C., appear to have already pushed him aside, repeatedly encouraging him to resign, but Menendez has maintained a defiant stance.

“I am innocent and I will prove it no matter how many accusations they continue to make,” he said after the indictment against him was updated again in early March to add accusations that he tried to obstruct the investigation.

In addition to charges of corruption, extortion, fraud and obstruction of justice, Menendez is also accused of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.

Menendez has vigorously denied doing anything unusual in his dealings with foreign officials. The senator’s lawyers said in court papers that they plan to explain that Menendez had no knowledge of some of what happened because his wife, who often allegedly served as a middleman between the men paying the bribes, kept him in the dark.

Menendez at Senate Finance Hearing

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks during the Senate Finance hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, file)

According to an indictment, Daibes delivered gold bars and cash to Menendez and his wife to get the senator’s help in a multimillion-dollar deal with a fund. Qatari investment, which prompted Menendez to act favorably to the Qatari government. The indictment also says Menendez did things to benefit Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from Hana, with the businessman striking a valuable deal with the Egyptian government to certify that meat imported food met Islamic dietary requirements.

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In pleading guilty several weeks ago, Uribe admitted buying a Mercedes-Benz from Menendez’s wife to get the senator’s help in influencing criminal investigations involving his business associates.

Judge Sidney H. Stein rejected Menendez’s attempt to claim that legislative immunity protects him from the charges. The judge has yet to rule on whether the defense can call a psychiatrist to show Menéndez that he habitually stored cash at home, in response to family stories about how their savings were confiscated during the communist revolution in Cuba, before he was imprisoned. born, and because of financial problems stemming from the gambling problem of his father, a struggling carpenter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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