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New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez on testifying at his bribery trial: “That’s to be determined”


Washington — Sen. Bob Menendez was at work in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, but in four days he’ll be in a Manhattan courtroom as a criminal defendant fighting federal corruption charges that involve the governments of Egypt and Qatar. 

The New Jersey Democrat told CBS News he plans to be at his trial every day “subject to the schedule.” When asked whether he would take the stand, Menendez said, “that’s to be determined.” 

The Senate is scheduled to be in session for most of the next month, except for the week of Memorial Day. 

Menendez has maintained his innocence since he was initially indicted in September on corruption and bribery charges along with his wife, Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen. Since then, prosecutors expanded the charges to include obstruction of justice and conspiring to act as a foreign agent, alleging that  Menendez, his wife and one of the three New Jersey businessmen used the senator’s position to benefit the government of Egypt. Federal law prohibits Menendez, a public official, from serving as a foreign agent.

Menendez faces 16 criminal counts, while his wife, who will be tried separately due to health issues, faces 15. 

The senator recently indicated he might incriminate his wife when he heads to trial Monday alongside two of the New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes. The three, along with Nadine Menendez, have all pleaded not guilty. 

The third indicted business associate, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors earlier this year. 

The Menendezes are accused of accepting lavish gifts, including nearly half a million dollars in cash, more than a dozen gold bars, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and home mortgage payments, from the businessmen who allegedly sought to use the senator’s power to benefit their businesses, Egypt and Qatar and to disrupt criminal prosecutions. Menendez and his wife then sought to cover up the bribes by writing checks to the businessmen that were characterized as payments for loans, according to prosecutors. 

Menendez has defended his cash stockpile as an “old-fashioned” habit that had roots in his family’s experience in Cuba. Lawyers for Menendez said in a recent court filing that they want a psychiatrist to testify about “two significant traumatic events” in the senator’s life that led to the “coping mechanism of routinely withdrawing and storing cash in his home” — his family having funds confiscated by the Cuban government and his father’s suicide. Prosecutors have objected to the proposed testimony. 

Menendez has refused demands, including from his Democratic colleagues, to resign since he was indicted. 

“Everybody’s innocent until proven guilty,” Menendez said Thursday when asked whether he was being treated differently than Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who was indicted last week with his wife on federal bribery charges. “That’s my view. For Congressman Cuellar, that’s the same. How people react to it is their position.”





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