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Opening statements set to kick off second criminal trial for Sen. Bob Menendez

NEW YORK (AP) — The bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez is ready to start with opening statements Wednesday as prosecutors seek to convince a jury that the longtime powerful Democrat was willing to sell his influence to benefit three businessmen in return for cash, gold bars and a fancy car.

The three-term senator has insisted since his fall arrest that he is not guilty of charges that he used his influence to aid three New Jersey businessmen, including by providing favors to the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Prosecutors say the men showered Menendez and his wife with gifts to ensure Menendez would help them.

Menendez, 70, is on trial in Manhattan federal court with two of the businessmen. A third has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other defendants. Menendez’s wife is scheduled to be tried in July.

For the senator, the trial represents the second time he has been criminally charged in a federal court in the last decade.

In 2017, a federal jury deadlocked on corruption charges brought in New Jersey, and prosecutors did not seek to retry him.

Those charges were unrelated to the current prosecution of Menendez, who held the powerful post of chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before he was forced from the job after the new charges were revealed last fall.

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