Sen. Bob Menendez’s Alleged Bribes Connected to Federal Prosecutor Appointment, Say Prosecutors

Sen. Bob Menendez's Alleged Bribes Connected to Federal Prosecutor Appointment, Say Prosecutors

On Tuesday, prosecutors at Sen. Bob Menendez’s trial used testimony from his former campaign manager to attempt to link the Democrat’s alleged bribery to the selection of New Jersey’s top prosecutor three years ago.

Michael Soliman, a former top Menendez political aide, testified shortly after New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, Philip R. Sellinger, completed two days on the witness stand in the Manhattan federal court trial, which is now in its sixth week.

Menendez, 70, and two New Jersey businessmen are on trial on charges that the senator received gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and a luxury car from businessmen between 2018 and 2022 in exchange for assisting them in their business dealings, including attempting to meddle in court cases.

They’ve pled not guilty. A third businessman plead guilty and testified against them. Menendez’s wife has also pled not guilty in the case, though her trial has been delayed due to breast cancer.

Sellinger testified last week that Menendez told him that if he recommended him as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, he hoped he’d look into a criminal case against Fred Dabies, a prominent New Jersey real estate developer, because he felt he “was being treated unfairly.”

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Sellinger stated that the next day, he informed Menendez that he would have to notify the Justice Department that he could need to disqualify himself from the Dabies case since he had worked on a lawsuit against Dabies while in private practice.

Menendez then nominated someone else for the position, and Soliman testified Tuesday that a top Menendez aide told him in December 2020 that the senator and Sellinger “had a falling out.”

Soliman stated that after the new candidate’s appointment fell through due to a series of negative news articles about her, Sellinger told him that he wanted the senator to know that he checked with the Justice Department and discovered that “the issue” that he thought would require his recusal did not in fact require it.

When Soliman described the conversation to the senator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal asked him whether Menendez was confused about what “the issue” was.

“No,” Soliman answered.

Soliman, who stated he had no idea what “the issue” was that Sellinger had mentioned, also claimed Menendez asked no questions about the communication Sellinger had sent along.

Sellinger, who is not suspected of any wrongdoing, was sworn in as US attorney in December 2021 and has maintained the position ever since.

Sellinger, who testified last week, described his interaction with Soliman differently, claiming that he told Soliman the same thing he told the senator: that he expected to be recused from the Daibes case due to a civil case he had worked on that was against Daibes.

Sellinger said he called Menendez in spring 2022 to invite him to speak at a public ceremony commemorating his appointment as US attorney.

“He said: ‘I’m going to pass,'” Sellinger recalled.

Sellinger claimed that the senator subsequently stated: “The only thing worse than not having a relationship with the United States attorney is people thinking you have a relationship with the United States attorney and you don’t.”

Sellinger testified on cross examination last week and Tuesday in ways that favored the senator, including claiming he never believed Menendez had directed him to do anything wrong or immoral.

Menendez departed the courthouse on Tuesday, seemingly happy, remarking immediately before getting into his car: “Sellinger made it very clear.” He was asked not to do anything wrong. And he did not.

Dabies, who is on trial alongside Menendez, caught COVID last week, causing a three-day delay in a trial that is now likely to last until July. The trial will resume on Thursday, following Wednesday’s vacation.


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