Menendez trial: jury selection begins today in Manhattan

by | May 13, 2024

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is set to begin his second federal corruption trial in ten years. The trial, taking place in Manhattan federal court, focuses on allegations that Menendez engaged in actions benefiting the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Alongside his wife, Nadine Menendez, he is accused of accepting bribes from three wealthy businessmen— real estate developer Fred Daibes, Wael Hana, and Jose Uribe. These alleged favors include intervening in criminal investigations and taking actions favorable to Egypt and Qatar.

Menendez, now 70 years old, stands trial with Daibes and Hana, both pleading not guilty. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in Manhattan. Uribe, having pleaded guilty, is set to testify against the other defendants. Nadine Menendez's trial, also facing charges, is postponed until at least July due to health concerns.

The three-term senator has declared his decision not to seek reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall, leaving open the possibility of running as an independent.

This decision poses a potential challenge for Democrats, given their narrow Senate majority, particularly in New Jersey.

Following charges announced in September, Menendez relinquished his influential position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2015, Menendez faced his first major political crisis when indicted on charges related to a wealthy Florida eye doctor. Despite staunchly denying the allegations and vowing to remain in the Senate, the trial in 2017 ended with a hung jury, leading federal prosecutors in New Jersey to drop the case.

Despite facing the other indictment, Menendez not only retained his seat in Congress but also secured reelection and maintained his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. He married Nadine Menendez in 2020 after two years of dating.

In the recent case, federal prosecutors highlighted that FBI agents discovered a cache of gold bars, valued at over $100,000, and over $486,000 in cash during a raid on the senator's New Jersey home two years ago, with some of the cash reportedly found in the pockets of clothing hanging in his closets. Despite calls for resignation before his term ends on January 3, Menendez has chosen to remain in the Senate. However, unlike in 2015, he faces diminished support from his party, with Democratic Governor Phil Murphy and others urging him to step down.

In addition to facing charges for bribery, extortion, fraud, and obstruction of justice, Menendez is also accused of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. Despite these allegations, Menendez vehemently denies engaging in any improper behavior in his interactions with foreign officials. His legal team intends to argue that Menendez was unaware of certain events because his wife, who allegedly acted as a liaison between the individuals offering bribes, kept him uninformed.

According to the indictment, Daibes provided Menendez and his wife with gold bars and cash in exchange for the senator's assistance with a multimillion-dollar deal involving a Qatari investment fund. This allegedly led Menendez to take actions beneficial to the government of Qatar.

The indictment also claims that Menendez engaged in activities favorable to Egyptian officials in return for bribes from Hana. Hana purportedly secured a lucrative deal with the Egyptian government to certify imported meat as meeting Islamic dietary standards, prompting Menendez's alleged involvement.

In his guilty plea several weeks ago, Uribe confessed to purchasing a Mercedes-Benz for Menendez's wife in exchange for the senator's assistance in influencing criminal investigations involving his business associates. Despite Menendez's attempt to claim legislative immunity, Judge Sidney H. Stein rejected this defense.

The judge has yet to decide whether the defense can present testimony from a psychiatrist, aiming to demonstrate that Menendez habitually kept cash at home due to a “fear of scarcity” influenced by family stories of their savings being confiscated during the Communist revolution in Cuba, prior to his birth, and due to financial challenges stemming from his father's gambling issues as a struggling carpenter.

 

Source: Fox News

 

 

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