Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey opted not to testify in his bribery trial in New York, asserting that prosecutors did not substantiate their claims. This decision has paved the way for closing arguments, anticipated to commence as early as Monday.

Defense Wraps Up Case

The defense team for Menendez, a Democrat, concluded their arguments after calling several witnesses over two days to counter the extensive seven-week testimony and numerous exhibits presented by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

Menendez’s Allegations and Stance

Sen. Menendez, aged 70, vehemently denies allegations that he accepted substantial sums of money in gold and cash between 2018 and 2022 in exchange for leveraging his Senate position to benefit three New Jersey businessmen. When Judge Sidney H. Stein asked Menendez to confirm his decision not to testify, Menendez affirmed it was his own, made after thorough discussions with his legal team.

Upon exiting the courthouse, Menendez told reporters that the government failed to prove its case in its entirety. He dismissed the notion of testifying as giving the prosecution another unwarranted opportunity. Menendez expressed confidence in his lawyers’ upcoming summation, believing it will convincingly highlight the prosecution’s failures and lead to a not guilty verdict.

Co-Defendants and Testimonies

Two businessmen, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, accused alongside Menendez, also pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Jose Uribe, admitted guilt and testified against Menendez and his co-defendants. Lawyers for Daibes concluded their case without presenting a defense, while Hana’s defense team began with testimony from one of his employees.

Prosecution’s Case and Evidence

Prosecutors spent seven weeks laying out their case, concluding last Friday. They presented evidence suggesting Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, often acted as an intermediary between the senator and the businessmen. Nadine Menendez, facing her own criminal charges, has her trial postponed due to breast cancer recovery.

Defense Arguments and Family Testimony

Menendez’s defense argued that Nadine kept her financial struggles and dealings with the businessmen hidden from her husband. They claimed she inherited the gold bars found during an FBI raid. An FBI agent testified about seizing over $486,000 in cash and more than $100,000 in gold bars during the 2022 raid, suspecting criminal activity.

Among the witnesses was Menendez’s sister, Caridad Gonzalez, who explained that their family traditionally kept large amounts of cash at home, a practice dating back to their parents’ escape from Cuba in 1951.

Charges and Political Future

Menendez faces multiple charges, including bribery, fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice, and acting as a foreign agent for Egypt. Following the announcement of these charges in September, he was removed from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Despite calls for his resignation, Menendez has declared his intent to run for reelection as an independent.

Allegations of Favoritism and Corruption

Prosecutors allege that Menendez received gold bars and cash from Daibes in exchange for assisting with a multimillion-dollar deal involving a Qatari investment fund. Additionally, they claim Menendez favored Egyptian officials due to bribes from Hana, who secured a lucrative deal with the Egyptian government regarding meat import certifications.

A previous corruption case against Menendez in 2017 ended with a deadlocked jury, underscoring the contentious nature of the current proceedings.