Sen. Bob Menendez shows up for start of federal bribery trial

Menendez is facing numerous charges, including fraud, obstruction and acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.
Menendez Bribery
Posted at 10:22 AM, May 13, 2024

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, arrived Monday for the start of his trial on charges that he accepted bribes of gold and cash to use his influence to deliver favors that would help three New Jersey businessmen.

Menendez, 70, was dropped off in front of a Manhattan federal courthouse at 8:15 a.m., 40 minutes before former President Donald Trump's motorcade passed by on its way across the street to state court, where he is on trial for allegedly falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to a porn actor before the 2016 election.

Menendez, arriving with his lawyers, did not speak to reporters who were kept behind barricades as he entered a security pavilion where everyone entering the courthouse is scanned.

Menendez is on trial with two of the businessmen who allegedly paid him bribes — real estate developer Fred Daibes and Wael Hana. All three have pleaded not guilty. A third businessman has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. The senator's wife is also charged, but her trial is delayed until at least July.

Opening statements were possible, but unlikely, before Tuesday for a trial that has already sent the senator's political stature tumbling. After charges were announced in September, he was forced out of his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

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It will be the second corruption trial for Menendez in the last decade. The previous prosecution on unrelated charges ended with a deadlocked jury in 2017.

In the new case, prosecutors say the senator's efforts on behalf of the businessmen led him to take actions benefiting the governments of Egypt and Qatar. Menendez has vigorously denied doing anything unusual in his dealings with foreign officials.

Besides charges including bribery, extortion, fraud and obstruction of justice, Menendez also is charged with acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.

Among evidence his lawyers will have to explain are gold bars worth over $100,000 and more than $486,000 in cash found in a raid two years ago on his New Jersey home, including money stuffed in the pockets of clothing in closets.

The Democrat's wife, Nadine Menendez, was also charged in the case, but her trial has been postponed for health reasons. She is still expected to be a major figure. Prosecutors say Nadine Menendez often served as a conduit between the men paying the bribes and Menendez.

The senator's lawyers in court papers have said they plan to explain that Menendez had no knowledge of some of what occurred because she kept him in the dark.

According to an indictment, Daibes delivered gold bars and cash to Menendez and his wife to get the senator's help with a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund, prompting Menendez to act in ways favorable to Qatar's government.

The indictment also said Menendez did things benefiting Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from Hana as the businessman secured a valuable deal with the Egyptian government to certify that imported meat met Islamic dietary requirements.

In pleading guilty several weeks ago, businessman Jose Uribe admitted buying Menendez's wife a Mercedes-Benz to get the senator's help to influence criminal investigations involving his business associates.