Senator Bob Menéndez’s corruption trial will begin in New York

The high-profile corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez will begin Monday with jury selection, kicking off the Washington foreign policy giant’s defense against accusations that he engaged in corruption and aided the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Menendez told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday that it has not yet been determined whether he will testify at the New York trial.

Federal prosecutors are working to prove that Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian-Menendez, financed a lavish lifestyle through an illegal bribery scheme that benefited Cairo and Doha.

The charges also include claims that Menendez helped the Egyptian government with military sales, financing and ghostwriting a letter on behalf of Cairo to fellow senators advocating for the release of $300 million in aid.

The Justice Department issued those charges in September against the couple and businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes. They all pleaded not guilty.

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, will face a jury along with Hana and Daibes, while his wife will be tried separately.

Those charges led to Menendez’s resignation as chairman of the powerful Senate committee, where he had regulatory authority over the State Department and played a key role in pushing Washington’s foreign policy legislation.

Despite his resignation from that position, he is still in the Senate and is a permanent member of the committee.

But it appears the trial will disrupt his duties in Congress.

Menendez said Thursday that he intends to be in court every day “subject to the schedule.”

The case is expected to last weeks and overlap with the Senate session.

Menendez’s defense strategy remains unclear, although he has steadfastly maintained his innocence and pointed to a history of suspending US assistance to Cairo and criticizing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

However, he admitted that the trial could be “his biggest fight yet.”

Politicians on trial, a trend in the US?

Menendez is not the only politician or public official who has been under the federal microscope recently.

Last week, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar and his wife over allegations that the couple accepted $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijan-run oil company and a Mexico-based bank.

Although he is not a politician, Víctor Rocha, a former ambassador to Bolivia who also served on the National Security Council, pleaded guilty last month to acting as a foreign agent for Cuba for decades.

Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race against Joe Biden, is in the middle of a high-stakes hush money trial in New York.

It is one of four criminal cases facing the former president, which include dozens of charges.

This has thrown the United States into uncharted legal and political waters that could have enormous implications for this year’s national elections and beyond, as Trump is the first former president in US history to be criminally charged.

Updated: May 13, 2024, 3:30 am