Menendez prosecutors seek to tie gifts, donations to actions
NEWARK, N.J. — Prosecutors in the corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez sought Thursday to show that the New Jersey Democrat took actions on behalf of a wealthy donor after the donor gave him gifts and campaign donations.
They showed jurors emails between a Menendez staffer and the son-in-law of the donor who arranged for a $60,000 contribution, part to be donated to a Democratic state committee supporting Menendez and part to be donated to a legal defense fund helping Menendez fight a recall effort.
Prosecutors said the donations in May 2012 occurred shortly before Menendez met with a high-ranking State Department official to discuss a contract dispute in the Dominican Republic involving a cargo screening company owned by the donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen.
Prosecutors also sought to show that the day after Menendez played golf with Melgen in Florida, a Menendez staffer emailed a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official seeking to stop the donation of cargo screening equipment to the Dominican Republic, a move that could have negatively affected Melgen’s company.
Menendez is charged with taking gifts, including free flights and luxury hotel stays, from Melgen in exchange for his political influence.
The two men deny the charges and say the gifts were a result of their longtime friendship and not part of a bribery scheme.
The trial is in its fourth week and is expected to last through October.
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