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USA

Bob Menendez’s defense places blame on senator’s wife

  • By Brandon Drenon and Holly Honderich
  • BBC News

Video caption, Watch: Key moments in the US senator’s corruption saga

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s defense sought to shift blame for his alleged corruption to his wife in opening statements during his corruption trial.

Nadine Menendez “kept him in the dark,” the politician’s lawyer, Avi Weitzman, told the jury.

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

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

Mr. Menendez is accused of accepting bribes, including gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible, in exchange for aid to foreign governments. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial, in federal court in Manhattan, could extend into July. Mr. Menendez is required to be present every day.

He was the ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than five years, giving him influence over U.S. foreign policy. He was removed from his post as president after being indicted.

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

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

“This wasn’t politics as usual. This was politics for profit. This was a U.S. senator on the run,” she said.

And, Ms. Pomerantz said, the Democrat used his wife to facilitate the deals. Mr. Menendez was “too smart” to send text messages and emails about the bribes himself, she alleged, so he advised his wife what to do.

Mr. Menendez’s defense team painted a different picture of the senator’s marriage, describing Ms. Menendez as a financially troubled person who left her husband out of her efforts to resolve his money problems and “to get money.” money and assets by any means possible.

Image source, Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Wednesday’s opening arguments followed more than two days of jury selection. Twelve jurors and six alternatives were ultimately chosen, a group including an investment banker, a doctor and a few therapists.

Mr. Menendez was indicted on 18 counts, including bribery, extortion, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent.

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

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

Prosecutors say the items discovered were part of a plan to help the Egyptian government. They also allege that Mr. Menendez accepted bribes to use his influence to benefit Qatar.

Mr. Menendez is on trial with Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer who allegedly delivered the gold and silver to the senator, and businessman Wael Hana, who allegedly brokered a deal between Mr. Menendez and the government Egyptian. Mr. Daibes and Mr. Hana have also pleaded not guilty.

News Source : www.bbc.com
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