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Menendez ‘put his power up for sale,’ say prosecutors in closing arguments in Manhattan trial

Charges include bribery and acting as a foreign agent

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., faces federal corruption charges in New York.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., faces federal corruption charges in New York. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Bob Menendez put his “power up for sale” and in return raked in high-dollar bribes from New Jersey businessmen in the form of cash, gold and a vehicle, the prosecution argued Monday during the first day of closing arguments in the federal corruption case against the New Jersey Democrat.

Federal prosecutor Paul Monteleoni began walking jurors through the specifics of the multifaceted federal indictment Monday, saying that testimony from government witnesses, heard across seven weeks, showed “a clear pattern of corruption.”

It wasn’t enough for Menendez to be a major power player in Washington, entrusted with the power to approve billions of dollars in U.S. military aid or recommend a nominee for a U.S. attorney post, Monteleoni argued.

“No. Robert Menendez wanted all that power, but he also wanted to use it to pile up riches for himself and his wife. So Menendez sold the power of his office,” Monteleoni said.

Monteleoni outlined the prosecution’s case against Menendez, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on trial in Manhattan on 16 criminal counts. The charges include bribery and acting as a foreign agent. The prosecution’s closing argument is expected to continue Tuesday. An attorney for Menendez is also expected to make a closing argument.

The senator, in exchange for bribes, promised to approve military aid to Egypt, to pressure the New Jersey attorney general to disrupt a criminal investigation and to recommend someone for a U.S. attorney post who he thought he could influence to affect a federal case against co-defendant Fred Daibes, a real estate developer, Monteleoni said.

The federal prosecutor said the senator’s wife, Nadine, was his “go-between,” demanding and receiving payment.

That point appeared to be a swipe at defense arguments that Menendez and his wife kept separate finances and largely had separate lives, with the senator spending most of the work week in Washington while his wife was in New Jersey.

Over the course of the trial, jurors heard from FBI employees, government officials and an insurance broker who testified that he bribed the senator in an attempt to influence state-level investigations to benefit people close to him.

The jury at the trial received an outline of how federal authorities found gold bars and about $486,000 in cash during a 2022 search of the New Jersey residence the senator shared with his wife.

Monteleoni told jurors they had heard how the senator took bribes from “businessmen in exchange for the promise to use his official power to enrich them and to protect them and their associates from anyone in the government who would stand in their way.”