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

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 Wael 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.


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

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

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.

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)


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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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