Bob Menendez’s defense blames senator’s wife

  • By Brandon Drennan and Holly Honderich
  • BBC News

video caption, WATCH: Key moments in US senator’s corruption saga

The defense of US Senator Bob Menendez has tried to pin the blame for alleged bribery on his wife in opening statements in his corruption trial.

The politician’s lawyer, Avi Weitzman, told the jury that Nadine Menendez “kept him in the dark” on financial matters.

But prosecutor Lara Pomerantz said Mr. Menendez, 70, used his wife to trade political influence for money, gifts and gold bars.

The longtime New Jersey Democrat has “put his power up for sale,” he said.

Mr. Menendez is accused of accepting bribes, including gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, in exchange for help from foreign governments. He has declared himself innocent of all charges.

The trial in Manhattan federal court could stretch into July. Mr. Menendez is required to attend each day.

He was the top-ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than five years, giving him dominance over American foreign policy. After the allegations were made, he was removed from the post of chairman.

In 2020, he married Nadine Menendez, who was born in Lebanon before moving to the United States as a child. He is being tried separately on bribery and corruption charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Laying out the government’s case against Mr. Menendez, Ms. Pomerantz took aim at what she called a “betrayal” of the senator’s oath of office.

He said, “This was not politics as usual. This was politics for profit. This was a United States senator.”

And, Ms. Pomerantz said, the Democrat used his wife to help facilitate the deals. He alleged that Mr. Menendez was “too smart” to send messages and emails regarding bribes, so he advised his spouse on what to do.

Mr. Menendez’s defense team painted a different picture of the senator’s marriage, portraying Mrs. Menendez as a financially troubled individual who sought to solve money problems and “obtain cash and property by any means necessary.” For” left her husband.

image Source, getty images

image Caption, Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, acted as the “middleman” in the bribery scheme.

Mr. Weitzman, the defense attorney, said, “Let me say this about Nadine: Nadine had financial concerns that she hid from Bob.”

They led separate lives, Mr. Weitzman said, with Mr. Menendez often focused on helping his constituents from his seat in Washington.

Mr. Weitzman said, “The government’s allegations that the senator sold out his office and his loyalty to this country are blatantly false.” “Bob was doing his job, and he was doing it right.”

Wednesday’s opening arguments came after more than two days of jury selection. Twelve jurors and six alternates were ultimately selected, a group that included an investment banker, a doctor, and some physicians.

Mr. Menendez has been charged with 18 criminal counts, including bribery, extortion, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent.

Investigators who executed a search warrant at his home in September found more than $480,000 (£380,000) in cash stuffed in envelopes and coats and 13 gold bars worth more than $100,000.

Agents also found other apparent gifts, including a Mercedes-Benz and a range of home furnishings.

Prosecutors say the items discovered were part of a scheme to aid the Egyptian government. They also alleged that Mr Menendez took bribes to use his influence to benefit Qatar.

Mr. Menendez is sued along with New Jersey real estate developer Fred Dibbs, who allegedly delivered gold and cash to the senator, and businessman Wael Hana, who allegedly brokered a deal between Mr. Menendez and the Egyptian government. Its going on. Both Mr Dibbs and Mr Hanna have also pleaded innocent.

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