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Prosecutors in Menendez Bribery Trial Rest Their Case

LocalProsecutors in Menendez Bribery Trial Rest Their Case

After seven weeks of trial, federal prosecutors rested their case on Friday against Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat accused of conspiring to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold, cash and other bribes in return for the senator’s willingness to dispense political favors at home and abroad.

Defense lawyers are expected to begin calling witnesses next week in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Throughout the trial, lawyers for Mr. Menendez, who has vigorously maintained his innocence, have aggressively cross-examined a parade of government witnesses, seeking to undermine their credibility.

The conclusion of the government’s case comes nine months after Mr. Menendez, his wife and several New Jersey businessmen were first charged with participating in a vast bribery conspiracy that prosecutors say began in 2018.

The senator is accused of taking bribes in exchange for steering aid and weapons to Egypt, propping up an ally’s business monopoly and trying to disrupt several criminal investigations in New Jersey on behalf of friends.

The original indictment was updated multiple times as prosecutors broadened the charges. In October, the senator was charged with being an agent of Egypt. In March, he and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were accused of obstructing justice by causing their attorneys to make false statements to prosecutors in an attempt to suggest that alleged bribes were legitimate loans. (The lawyers were not accused of wrongdoing.)

The trial, which began in May, is expected to wrap up after the July 4 holiday. Mr. Menendez, 70, has said he will be exonerated and that he hopes to run for re-election in November. On Thursday, paperwork was filed in Washington on Mr. Menendez’s behalf formally notifying the Federal Election Commission that he planned to seek a fourth term in the Senate as an independent.

Since the start of the trial, prosecutors have introduced thousands of pieces of evidence, including text, email and voice mail messages, and questioned more than a dozen witnesses. New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, Philip R. Sellinger, and a former attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, were both called to testify against the senator in connection with claims that he had tried to pressure them into quashing criminal prosecutions.

The senator’s longtime political adviser and a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had worked with Mr. Menendez for years, each spent hours on the witness stand.

Two of the businessmen charged with Mr. Menendez, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, are on trial with him. Ms. Menendez, 57, had her trial postponed by the judge, Sidney H. Stein, because she is being treated for breast cancer. Like the senator, Ms. Menendez, Mr. Daibes and Mr. Hana have all pleaded not guilty.

Jose Uribe, a former insurance broker who pleaded guilty in March, spent several days on the witness stand outlining his role in the alleged conspiracy. Mr. Uribe admitted to providing Ms. Menendez with a Mercedes-Benz in 2019 in exchange for gaining the senator’s “power and influence” to “stop and kill” insurance fraud investigations that prosecutors in Mr. Grewal’s office were pursuing.

Mr. Uribe told jurors he had several one-on-one conversations with Mr. Menendez about the state fraud investigations. He also testified, however, that he and the senator had never discussed the car or how it would be paid for.

According to prosecutors, Ms. Menendez served as a vital go-between and a conduit for the bribes.

But Mr. Menendez’s lawyers have argued that the senator was unaware of his wife’s activities, and that he had no key to a locked bedroom closet in the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., where F.B.I. agents found much of the cash and all of the bars of gold bullion.

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