Subscribe
Sen. Bob Menendez, center, sits with his defense team during jury selection, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Manhattan federal court in New York. Menendez, a Democrat, is accused of accepting bribes of gold and cash to use his influence to deliver favors that would help three New Jersey businessmen.

Sen. Bob Menendez, center, sits with his defense team during jury selection, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at Manhattan federal court in New York. Menendez, a Democrat, is accused of accepting bribes of gold and cash to use his influence to deliver favors that would help three New Jersey businessmen. (Candace E. Eaton via AP)

NEW YORK — The names of some prominent U.S. senators including Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Cory Booker were mentioned Tuesday by a federal judge as he alerted prospective jurors to a list of people who could be named or might testify at the New York corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez.

Judge Sidney H. Stein also read the names of Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, among others. Other names included former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as well as current and former state lawmakers.

The second day of the Democrat’s trial unfolded amid the court’s efforts to seat a jury while Menendez sat by himself at a defense table through much of the morning and early afternoon as prospective jurors who claimed they could not serve were interviewed by the judge in a room just outside the courtroom.

Stein has heard a variety of reasons why individuals say they should be excused from the trial of the Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, resident that is projected to stretch to July. Some have cited medical reasons while others say their jobs or travel plans would be too adversely affected.

But several have said they worry that they have heard too much to be fair about the case in which Menendez, 70, was charged with bribery, extortion, fraud and obstruction of justice, along with acting as a foreign agent of Egypt.

“I’m a news junkie, and I’ve learned about the case already significantly. I knew it was Bob Menendez the second I walked in,” one juror said.

“As did many people,” the judge shot back before asking if the man could still decide the case based on trial testimony. The man said he thought he could.

Jurors were identified only by numbers during the selection process. It was unclear when opening statements might begin.

Prosecutors say Menendez and his wife accepted bribes, including gold bars, cash and a luxury car, from three New Jersey businessmen in exchange for official acts. He is on trial with two of the businessmen while a third has pleaded guilty in a cooperation deal and is expected to testify for the government.

Menendez’s wife goes to trial separately in July.

The defendants have all pleaded not guilty to charges that they used Menendez’s power as a senator to their advantage as he was showered with gifts.

After his arrest last fall, Menendez was forced from his powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

After three terms in the Senate, he has announced he will not be seeking reelection on the Democratic ticket this fall, although he has not ruled out running as an independent.

Menendez has faced trial before in an unrelated case. In 2017, a federal jury deadlocked on corruption charges brought in New Jersey and prosecutors did not seek to retry him.

In the new case, an indictment accused the senator of taking actions on behalf of the businessmen that would benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar. Menendez has insisted he did not do anything unusual in his dealings with foreign officials.

According to an indictment, codefendant Fred Daibes, a real estate developer, delivered gold bars and cash to Menendez and his wife to get the senator to help him secure a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund by acting in ways favorable to Qatar’s government.

The indictment also said Menendez did things benefitting Egyptian officials in exchange for bribes from codefendant Wael Hana as the businessman secured a lucrative deal with the Egyptian government to certify that imported meat met Islamic dietary requirements.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now