Sen. Bob Menendez faces second criminal trial as opening statements are ready to begin

The bribery trial of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is set to begin this week, with opening statements scheduled for Wednesday. Prosecutors are aiming to convince the jury that the influential Democratic senator engaged in corrupt practices by selling his influence to benefit three businessmen in exchange for cash, gold bars, and a luxury car.

Menendez, who has served three terms as a senator, has consistently maintained his innocence since his arrest. He denies allegations that he used his position to assist the businessmen, including providing favors to the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

According to prosecutors, the businessmen lavished Menendez and his wife with gifts in order to secure his assistance. The senator is currently standing trial in Manhattan federal court alongside two of the businessmen, while a third has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the others. Menendez’s wife is also slated to face trial in July.

This is not the first time Menendez has faced criminal charges in federal court. In 2017, a jury in New Jersey failed to reach a verdict on corruption charges brought against him, and prosecutors did not pursue a retrial. The current charges are unrelated to the previous allegations.

Menendez, who previously held the powerful position of chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was forced to step down from his role after the new charges emerged last year.

Judge Sidney H. Stein has indicated that a jury will be selected by mid-morning on Wednesday, with opening statements to follow shortly thereafter. Alongside Menendez, the trial features defendants Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer, and businessman Wael Hana, both of whom have pleaded not guilty.

The indictment against the defendants alleges that Daibes supplied Menendez and his wife with gold bars and cash to secure the senator’s support for a lucrative deal with a Qatari investment fund. It also accuses Menendez of taking actions favorable to Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from Hana, who was seeking a deal with the Egyptian government related to the certification of meat for Islamic dietary requirements.

Menendez, who has announced that he will not seek reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall, has left open the possibility of running as an independent candidate. The trial promises to shed light on the allegations against him and the outcome will likely have significant repercussions on his political future.

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