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Menendez questions search warrants in federal bribery case

New Jersey Democrat seeks to suppress evidence discovered from home, digital accounts

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to reporters Jan. 9 in the Senate subway after a vote.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to reporters Jan. 9 in the Senate subway after a vote. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Bob Menendez challenged five search warrants the government used to build their criminal case accusing him of bribery and other charges, asking a judge Tuesday to throw out evidence and determine if the government deceived judges to get approval to search his home.

In a motion, attorneys for Menendez argued that the government repeatedly violated the senator’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Menendez contends warrants for information on his cellphone, his email address and iCloud account were overbroad and allowed the FBI to undertake an “exploratory rummaging” through phone records, emails, text messages, and personal digital belongings without adequate limitations.

He asked the judge to find those warrants were unconstitutional because they were too broad, and to throw out the information investigators found.

Menendez also argued several of the warrants used to search his home — including those that turned up more than $480,000 in cash and gold bars that prosecutors used to accuse him of bribery — were “riddled with material misrepresentations and omissions that deceived the authorizing magistrate judge.”

The motion seeks to throw out evidence from those warrants as well, or at least hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether those warrants should not have been issued.

The motion argued the searches permitted the government to “reverse engineer a complete record of the Senator’s life and location, dating back years — as well as an overbroad and intrusive search of his private home.”

And to get this information, the government “actively distorted the evidence and withheld key exculpatory information, misleading well-meaning Magistrate Judges into granting warrants that should never have issued,” the motion stated.

“To be absolutely clear, Senator Menendez does not believe that anything uncovered in these illegal searches comes remotely close to implicating his knowing involvement in the charged bribery schemes,” the motion stated.

The senator argued that in an application to search Menendez’s New Jersey home, the “government intentionally or recklessly omitted disclosure of substantial exculpatory evidence the FBI received from witnesses that very same day.”

Prosecutors say the senator acted on behalf of the Egyptian and Qatari governments in exchange for gifts and money and are pursuing Menendez on four federal criminal charges: conspiracy for a public official to act as a foreign agent, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and bribery.

The legal battles have come at a significant cost to the senator. He has spent over $370,000 on costs related to his criminal indictment, according to a report filed by his legal defense fund with the Senate Office of Public records.

Just in the fourth quarter of 2023, Menendez spent over $318,000, including $128,000 on legal services to Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears — the firm representing his wife and codefendant Nadine Menendez — and $70,000 to Winston & Strawn LLP, the firm that represents the senator.

Elias Law Group, a firm that specializes in representing Democrats, received over $46,000 from Menendez’s fund. Over that same time frame, Menendez took in just $195,000 in contributions, and almost $500,000 since the fund’s inception last year.

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