Opening statements planned in Menendez trial

Opening statements in Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) federal bribery and obstruction trial are set to begin Wednesday in Manhattan.

Federal prosecutors have alleged Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for the senator’s political power, which they said enriched several New Jersey businessmen, as well as the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The bribes were allegedly paid in the form of cash, gold bars, mortgage payments, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and other lavish gifts.  

Jury selection began in the case Tuesday. Judge Sidney H. Stein seemed optimistic it could wrap up by Wednesday morning, The Associated Press reported.

Bob Menendez, 70, and two of the businessmen are on trial. A third pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants, per the AP. Nadine Menendez will be tried in July.

The New Jersey Democrat has consistently maintained his innocence, despite facing intense scrutiny from colleagues over multiple superseding indictments in the case. While he stepped down from his role as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, he has largely brushed off calls from even those in his own party to resign.

He also said he would not seek reelection on the Democratic ticket in November but did not rule out running on an independent bid.

“I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election,” he said in March.

As the trial continues, it is unknown whether Menendez will take the stand in his own defense. But the senator told CBS News he plans to attend the trial daily, “subject to the schedule.” 

The Associated Press contributed.

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