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Prosecution rests in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial after seven weeks

<i>Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez arrives for trial at Manhattan federal court in New York City on June 11
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez arrives for trial at Manhattan federal court in New York City on June 11

By Lauren del Valle and Sabrina Souza, CNN

(CNN) — Federal prosecutors rested their case Friday in the corruption trial of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey after seven weeks of testimony from at least 30 witnesses.

The prosecutors spent weeks untangling the multiple corruption schemes that they say resulted in the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, garnishing gold bars, nearly half a million dollars in cash, a Mercedes-Benz and thousands of dollars in mortgage payments.

Bob Menendez faces a collection of bribery-related charges and counts of acting as a foreign agent for the Egyptian government and acting to benefit the Qatari government.

He’s on trial alongside New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, who are charged for their alleged roles in the purported quid pro quo arrangements with the senator.

Nadine Menendez, who was also charged in the indictment, is expected to be tried separately later this summer. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Bob Menendez’s attorneys have consistently suggested in cross-examinations that the senator was not aware of deals his wife struck with their co-defendants, which included offering the senator’s influence for a price.

Prosecutors allege that Nadine Menendez was an intermediary for communications between the co-conspirators and her willing husband.

The government structured its case by chapters, calling witnesses to testify about separate schemes allegedly brokered by the senator in tandem with his wife. According to evidence presented by prosecutors in court, the schemes were brokered with Hana, Daibes and another co-conspirator, Jose Uribe, who struck a plea deal ahead of the trial.

On his way out of Manhattan federal court Friday, Menendez told reporters that the government “hasn’t proven its case.”

His lawyers will begin presenting his case when the trial resumes Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET. The lawyers have indicated that his defense should take no more than two or three days.

The senator’s older sister, Nadine Menendez’s sister and a forensic accounting expert are expected to be the first few witnesses in the senator’s defense.

It is unclear if the senator, Daibes or Hana will testify in their own defense.

The trial was first estimated to take about six weeks but is now expected to continue through mid-July.

Here’s a summary of the past seven weeks of testimony in the prosecution’s case:

A luxury car for prosecution interference

Uribe, a co-defendant turned cooperating witness, testified that he bribed Bob Menendez in exchange for his influence to attempt to sway top prosecutors in New Jersey from pursuing criminal cases against his associates. Uribe testified about the conspiracy and how he paid for Nadine Menendez’s luxury car.

Gurbir Grewal, a former New Jersey attorney general, testified that Bob Menendez called him and then met with him in the senator’s Newark office in 2019 over concerns Menendez had about a case, though he never mentioned any defendants by name. Grewal testified that the senator never asked him to interfere in any specific case but a colleague of the attorney general who was at the meeting called the interaction “gross.”

Gold, cash and mortgage payments for doing the Egyptian government’s bidding

Federal prosecutors have alleged that Bob Menendez helped Hana secure a halal certification monopoly with the Egyptian government in exchange for giving Nadine Menendez gold bars, cash and paying her mortgage.

Ted McKinney, a former top official at the US Department of Agriculture, testified that the senator told him in a call to stop interfering with his constituents after McKinney flagged concerns over the monopoly.

The jury also heard about the close relationship the senator and his wife developed with Egyptian intelligence officials, who were introduced by Hana.

Jurors saw text messages between Nadine Menendez and Egyptian officials and surveillance photos and video of the Menendezes at an alleged conspiratorial dinner with Hana and a top Egyptian general at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Washington, DC, in May 2019.

Prosecutors say Bob Menendez pushed Egypt’s agenda for years in the Senate – where he previously served as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee – and signed off on millions in military funding in exchange for bribes from Hana.

Sarah Arkin, a senior Senate Foreign Relations staff member under Menendez, said the senator’s moves toward Egypt were unusual at times.

Arkin testified that while Menendez had historically been publicly critical of the Egyptian government’s human rights record, he told her in 2019 that he wanted to ease up on tough public statements, saying it wasn’t working. “I want to try to engage privately and engage more specifically and do more quiet engagement and criticism on a lot of these,” Arkin quoted the senator as saying.

Gold and cash for prosecution interference and Qatari government connections

Prosecutors allege that Daibes used the senator’s connections to secure a multimillion-dollar commercial real estate deal with a Qatari investment firm tied to members of the Qatari royal family.

The jury saw messages between the senator and Qatari contacts, facilitating an introduction with Daibes. The senator also penned complimentary press releases about the Qatari government, which he instructed Daibes to flag to the Qatari investors to curry favor, records shown at trial revealed.

Fingerprints belonging to the senator and Daibes were found on cash-filled envelopes that were among the items seized from Nadine Menendez’s home, where the senator also lived, during an FBI raid. Serial numbers on gold bars also seized at the home during that raid revealed that Daibes had once possessed the gold, according to trial evidence.

Meanwhile, other text messages shown by prosecutors at the trial illustrated a timeline of how the senator pushed the nomination of Philip Sellinger, the current US attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Sellinger testified that Menendez had hoped the US attorney contender would look at a criminal case against Daibes “carefully” if he secured the position. But Sellinger also said he never felt pressured to tip the scales for Daibes.

Prosecutors from Sellinger’s office ultimately offered Daibes a plea deal in April 2022 and the parties agreed Daibes would plead guilty to one felony charge and serve no jail time for the 2018 multi-count indictment tied to alleged loan fraud. A federal judge eventually rejected the deal last October days after Daibes and Menendez were indicted in the current case.

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