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'Politics for profit': Prosecutor calls Sen. Bob Menendez 'corrupt' in opening statements of bribery case

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., abused his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to "put greed first," a federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday during opening statements in the senator's bribery trial.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates in New York that the senior senator from New Jersey "was powerful. He was also corrupt."

"For years he betrayed the people he was supposed to serve by taking bribes,” she said.

Menendez is charged with accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes — including in the form of gold bars — in return for official acts as a U.S. senator.

"This was not politics as usual. This was politics for profit," Pomerantz said.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty. He faces decades in prison if convicted.

His attorney, Avi Weitzman, told the jury during his opening statements that Pomerantz's accusations were "outrageously false."

"He did not violate the law," Weitzman said. “There won’t be a single piece of tangible evidence the senator accepted a bribe," he said. “There is an innocent explanation for the gold and the cash.”

Weitzman said the senator did not know that his wife had the gold bars, and that jurors shouldn't judge someone by who they live with. Nadine Menendez has been charged in the scheme, but she will stand trial later because of a health issue.

Prosecutors said Menendez and his wife accepted bribes from three New Jersey businessmen in return for the senator's help with various issues. Two of the businessmen — Fred Daibes and Wael Hana — have pleaded not guilty and are standing trial with Menendez. The third, Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty this year and agreed to cooperate with the probe.

Attorneys for Daibes and Hana

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