Sen. Bob Menendez 'sold the power of his office,' prosecutor claims in closing argument

The federal prosecutor described what he called a "clear pattern of corruption."

July 8, 2024, 4:55 PM

Sen. Bob Menendez "sold the power of his office" by accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using his power to benefit New Jersey businessmen and foreign governments, a prosecutor told jurors in the senator's federal trial on Monday, describing what he called a "clear pattern of corruption."

"Robert Menendez, the senior U.S. senator from the state of New Jersey, the ranking member and then-chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put his power up for sale," the prosecutor, Paul Monteleoni, said during a closing argument that followed almost two months of witness testimony.

At trial, jurors held the gold bars that federal agents seized from Menendez's home in June 2022. The FBI also found nearly a half-billion dollars in cash, some of it stuffed in envelopes inside Menendez's boots or a jacket bearing the senator's name.

"They found envelope after envelope of cash," Monteleoni said.

Prosecutors claimed the cash, gold and a luxury convertible were all bribes from Menendez's co-defendants, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana.

Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, arrives at federal court in New York City, July 8, 2024.
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"It wasn't enough for him to be one of the most powerful people in Washington," Monteleoni said. "Robert Menendez wanted all that power and he also wanted to use it to pile up riches for himself and his wife."

Menendez pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges and has denied the allegations.

An attorney for Menendez is expected to deliver a closing statement on Tuesday. A theme of his defense has been to blame his wife, Nadine Menendez, who faces a separate trial in the case. Nadine Menendez is being treated for advanced breast cancer, which has delayed her trial.

Defense attorneys have argued Menendez was kept in the dark about what his wife was demanding from the businessmen in exchange for his help.

Prosecutors told jurors they shouldn't buy it.

"You don't get to be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by being clueless," Monteleoni said.

Menendez stepped down as the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee following the initial indictment in September 2023. He has not resigned from the Senate despite calls to do so from a majority of his Democratic Senate colleagues.

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