In conclusion, the prosecutor says that Senator Bob Menendez’s behavior in response to bribes was “completely abnormal”

LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press

33 minutes ago

Wael Hana arrives at a federal courthouse Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor accused Sen. Bob Menendez on Tuesday of engaging in “completely abnormal” behavior in response to bribes during closing arguments in the Democrat’s New York corruption trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni made the indictment, continuing a summary he began a day earlier before a federal jury in Manhattan court.

Menendez, 70, has pleaded not guilty to charges of accepting bribes, including gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash between 2018 and 2022, from three New Jersey businessmen who wanted him to help them with their business ventures.

His trial began its ninth week Monday. His lawyer was scheduled to begin closing arguments on behalf of the New Jersey senator later Tuesday.

Menendez is on trial along with two businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes. Hana, who prosecutors say recruited Menendez to help him obtain and protect a monopoly on certifying meat exports from the U.S. to Egypt, and Daibes, a prominent real estate developer, have also pleaded not guilty. A third businessman has pleaded guilty and testified at the trial.

Early Tuesday morning, Monteleoni highlighted what he described as an attempt by Menendez to influence former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in early 2019 to drop a criminal case on behalf of one of the bribe-paying businessmen by falsely alleging that investigators discriminated against Latino truck drivers.

Grewal, now head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division, testified at the hearing that he had flatly rejected Menendez’s attempts to intervene in the criminal investigation, ordering him to assign a New Jersey lawyer already handling the case to report any complaints to the judge or trial panel.

The meetings with Grewal were cited by Monteleoni as examples of Menendez’s actions that the prosecutor said were “completely abnormal.”

“Menendez is smart. Menendez is cautious,” Monteleoni said, noting that the senator claimed discrimination in the trucking industry rather than directly asking for the investigation to be closed because he knew the latter would be wrong.

He said the discrimination claim gave Menendez the ability to deny if anyone accused him of trying to pressure the New Jersey attorney general to drop the investigation.

In reality, however, Menendez was approaching Grewal in exchange for a new Mercedes-Benz that the entrepreneurs promised would be delivered to his then-girlfriend, Nadine Arslanian, who became his wife in the fall of 2020, Monteleoni said.

Nadine Menendez, 57, was also charged in the case, but her trial was adjourned while she recovers from breast surgery.

Menendez has resisted calls, even from some prominent Democrats, to resign, though he was forced to resign from his influential position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the allegations emerged last fall.

A few weeks ago, Menendez filed for re-election this year as an independent candidate.