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At Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial, prosecutors highlight his wife’s desperate finances

By The Associated Press - | May 30, 2024

CORRECTS DAY OF WEEK TO TUESDAY INSTEAD OF MONDAY - Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., arrives at federal court, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Menendez is accused of taking bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car in exchange for favors performed for several New Jersey businessmen. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors at Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial showed jurors hundreds of texts, emails and phone calls over two days that show his girlfriend-turned-wife’s desperate financial situation before New Jersey businessmen she had long known came to the rescue.

Prosecutors elicited the evidence through the testimony of an FBI agent for a second day Wednesday as they sought to show that Menendez, 70, conspired with three businessmen and his wife, Nadine Menendez, 57, in a bribery scheme that enriched the couple with gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and a luxury car.

The Menendezes and two of the businessmen have pleaded not guilty, while the third pleaded guilty and is scheduled to testify. Nadine Menendez’s trial was postponed until July after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through the long presentation of communications that was expected to continue into Thursday, prosecutors have sought to trace the relationship between Menendez and the woman he began dating in early 2018, known then as Nadine Arslanian.

Prosecutors say the trajectory of the relationship coincided with a bribery scheme that led the senator to help one businessman and codefendant, Wael Hana, win an exclusive contract with Egypt to certify all meat exported there from the United States as meeting religious requirements, while aiding two other businessmen financially and by helping them obtain favorable results with criminal cases in New Jersey.

Jurors saw some text messages Wednesday in which Menendez and Arslanian exchanged loving sentiments, with a kissing or heart emoji. In one message Arslanian told the senator: “You can never lose me because I will never let go.”

Other communications showed that during the summer of 2019, Arslanian was in danger of losing her home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, after missing nearly $20,000 in mortgage payments.

Hana provided the money to save the home, where Menendez moved after marrying Arslanian in 2020. Prosecutors say the money was part of bribes the couple received as the senator helped Hana’s company secure its monopoly on the certifying of meat exports to Egypt.

Defense lawyers say Menendez did nothing outside the bounds of what politicians typically do for constituents. The 13 gold bars found in a 2022 FBI raid on the home belonged to Nadine Menendez, they say, and the reason there was $480,000 in cash stuffed in jackets, boxes and a safe was because the senator was traumatized by the loss of his family’s fortune before he was born.

Menendez has also said through his lawyers that his wife kept him in the dark about her financial troubles and he did nothing illegal.

Among other charges, Menendez is accused of acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. After his fall arrest, he was forced to quit his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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