Sen. Bob Menendez’s Defense: ‘Blinded by Gold and Cash,’ Lawyer Claims Innocence in Bribery Case by using Wife in Defense

Sen. Bob Menendez’s Defense: 'Blinded by Gold and Cash,' Lawyer Claims Innocence in Bribery Case by using Wife in Defence

Manhattan, NYC: In a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday, Sen. Bob Menendez’s lawyer began his defense. He said that the New Jersey Democrat had never been involved in the international bribery scheme that federal prosecutors had described. He also said that there were “innocent explanations” for the mess of alleged crimes that have already ruined Menendez’s political career.

Avi Weitzman, Menendez’s lawyer, told the jury, “They want you to be blinded by the gold and the cash.” He meant to imply that many of the things the senator is accused of taking as bribes, like gold bars and a luxury car, were owned or obtained by his wife Nadine, who is also being charged and will go on trial in July.

They say Menendez worked for Egypt as a foreign agent and helped the government of Qatar while taking bribes from businesses in New Jersey. Wael Hana, an Egyptian-American investor, and Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer, are also on trial with him. They have all said they are not guilty. Menendez is not running for reelection in the Democratic primary next month, but he has said he might run as an independent if he is found not guilty.

Before the trial, in a federal courthouse just a few blocks away from where former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial took place, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz told the jurors that they would see evidence and hear testimony of a years-long plot between Menendez, his wife, and two New Jersey businessmen to take bribes while using his power to influence military aid to Egypt and put pressure on prosecutors and investigators to stop criminal cases and investigations.

“Mr. Robert Menendez was a senator from the United States who was taking money,” Pomerantz said. “He was greedy and only cared about how much money he could get for himself and his wife.” That’s the reason we’re here today. That’s the whole point of this trial.

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Nadine Menendez has also pleaded not guilty. She is not yet on trial, but the defense used her actions and impact on her husband as a main point of their opening statement. Weitzman said over and over that the pair has “had separate finances” and “lived separate lives.”

“They even had their own cell phone plan,” he said, then listed a number of “financial concerns that (Nadine) kept from Bob.” Weitzman said that Bob was in love with a “beautiful and tall, international woman.”

Weitzman also said that Menendez “was acting lawfully” as a US senator, saying that the actions that prosecutors have called corrupt were just diplomatic efforts for the US and support for his New Jersey constituents, some of whom are longtime friends.

Investigators found gold bars in Menendez’s home. Weitzman blamed the senator’s wife again, saying that she was in charge of the “family gold.”

Weitzman said that Nadine is from Lebanon, where keeping gold is “cultural,” in part because the region’s currencies have been historically unstable. He also said that wedding and engagement gifts of gold and silver are popular.

Weitzman also said that the senator couldn’t get to the gold bars because they were found in Nadine’s locked room. To make their point stronger, the defense showed the judge a picture of a messy walk-in closet.

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