Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez faces second federal corruption trial with jury selection starting Monday

Menendez's trial related to allegations he acted to benefit Egypt and Qatar opens possible window for Republicans to flip Senate

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is facing his second federal corruption trial in a decade, as jury selection is scheduled to begin in Manhattan federal court on Monday, this time related to charges alleging that he acted to benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar. 

The 70-year-old New Jersey Democrat and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of accepting bribes from three wealthy businessmen – real estate developer Fred Daibes, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe – in his home state and performing a variety of favors in return, including meddling in criminal investigations and taking actions benefiting the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Menendez, 70, will stand trial along with two of the businessmen, Daibes and Hana. All three have pleaded not guilty. Uribe has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. A trial for the senator’s wife, who is also charged, is delayed until at least July for health reasons. 

The three-term senator has announced he will not be seeking reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall, although he has not ruled out running as an independent. That could complicate things for Democrats who have a narrow edge in the U.S. Senate and can hardly afford the prospect of a three-way election in the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey.


Monday saw several new court filings from defense teams, but the judge has yet to rule on those matters.

Attorneys for Menendez accused prosecutors of not acting in good faith by seeking to have members of the Qatari Investment Company, who have already been interviewed by government counsel, avoid cross examination at trial. The senators’ lawyers allege "the government knows from their meetings with the Qatari Investment Company Deponents’ counsel and with one of the Qatari Investment Company Deponents that the Deponents’ testimony would disprove the story the government wants to tell."

Menendez in Capitol hallway with distressed look on his face

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., departs the Senate floor in the Capitol, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Adam Fee and Avi Weitzman, Menendez’s lawyers, said the "government will do whatever it can to prevent the jury from hearing the truth from the Qatari Investment Company Deponents, while also presenting to the jury dozens of communications from those very same witnesses."

"The Court should not reward the government’s sharp tactics," they wrote.

Meanwhile, current and former attorneys for Uribe, who is expected to testify as a witness at trial in the government’s case, accuse Menendez of "a blatant and improper attempt to end-run around the discovery limitations" through "three facially improper subpoenas," which seek information about Uribe’s plea agreement with prosecutors, payments Uribe made toward Menendez’s wife’s Mercedes-Benz and other communications and documents. Uribe pleaded guilty on March 1 pursuant to a cooperation agreement.

"Indeed, it appears that by serving not one but three clearly and facially defective subpoenas, failing to respond to Uribe’s counsel’s objections and requests to withdraw them, and disguising a Rule 17(c) subpoena as one for trial testimony, Menendez and his counsel are intentionally attempting to create an inappropriate burden on – and distraction for – Uribe shortly before the trial begins," Uribe's lawyers wrote.

After charges were announced in September, Menendez was forced out of his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Menendez and his wife enter court in New York City

Sen. Bob Menendez, left, and his wife Nadine Menendez arrive at the federal courthouse in New York, Sept. 27, 2023.  (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon, File)

The senator's political career had its first major crisis in 2015 when he was indicted on charges involving a wealthy Florida eye doctor accused of buying Menendez’s influence through luxury vacations and campaign contributions. At the time, Menendez resolutely denied the charges and vowed not to quit the Senate. A trial ended in 2017 with a deadlocked jury, and federal prosecutors in New Jersey abandoned the case.

Menendez not only stayed in Congress, he was reelected and kept his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. He married Nadine Menendez in 2020 after the couple dated for two years.

In the new case, federal prosecutors stressed that FBI agents who searched the senator's New Jersey home allegedly found a stash of gold bars, worth more than $100,000, and more than $486,000 in cash, some of it stuffed into the pockets of clothing hanging in his closets in a raid two years ago. 

Menendez has remained in the Senate amid this latest indictment, ignoring calls for him to step down before his six-year term ends Jan. 3. Unlike in 2015, though, his party has largely abandoned him. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and others called on him to resign. Democratic Rep. Andy Kim launched a campaign for Menendez’s seat the day after the indictment.


His fellow Democrats in Washington, D.C., appear to have already written him off, encouraging him repeatedly to resign, but Menendez has maintained a defiant stance. 

"I am innocent and will prove it no matter how many charges they continue to pile on," he said after the indictment against him was updated again in early March to add charges that he tried to obstruct the investigation. 

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

Menendez has vigorously denied doing anything unusual in his dealings with foreign officials. The senator's lawyers in court papers have said they plan to explain that Menendez had no knowledge of some of what occurred because his wife, who allegedly often served as a conduit between the men paying the bribes, kept him in the dark.

Menendez at Senate finance hearing

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., talks at the Senate Finance hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, March 21, 2024. in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

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, Uribe admitted buying Menendez's wife a Mercedes-Benz to get the senator's help to influence criminal investigations involving his business associates.

Judge Sidney H. Stein has rejected Menendez’s attempt to claim legislative immunity protects him from the charges. The judge has yet to rule on whether the defense can call a psychiatrist to show Menendez habitually stored cash in his home as a "fear of scarcity" response to family stories about how their savings were confiscated in the Communist revolution in Cuba, before he was born, and because of financial problems stemming from the gambling problem of his father, a struggling carpenter.

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