Closing statements wrap in Bob Menendez corruption trial

Senator Bob Menendez
Mr Menendez has pleaded not guilty in the high-profile bribery case [Getty Images]

US Senator Bob Menendez’s defence team have told jurors the corruption case against him is “rotten to the core”, as they wrapped up closing arguments in the high-profile trial.

Mr Menendez, 70, has pleaded not guilty to a five-year scheme of accepting gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for political favours and aiding the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

Prosecutors told the jury in their summation on Monday that Mr Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, had sold his power for money and gold.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Thursday following eight weeks of trial proceedings.

“The United States wins when thin cases brought by overzealous prosecutors are rejected,” Mr Menendez’s lawyer, Adam Fee, told the Manhattan court on Wednesday.

He argued that the gifts his client accepted do not qualify as bribes, because prosecutors have failed to prove that he took any specific action as a result.

The senator was merely “doing his job, and he was doing it well”, said Mr Fee.

Speaking to reporters outside court afterwards, Mr Menendez said: “We have stripped away the government's false narratives and exposed their lies.”

If convicted on all charges, he faces decades in prison and possible expulsion from the Democratic party.

During trial, prosecutors have relied on expert testimony, emails and Mr Menendez's text messages to show what they claim is proof that the senator accepted lavish rewards from foreign governments.

They say the gifts included gold bars worth over $100,000 (£79,000).

Mr Menendez is standing trial alongside two businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, who prosecutors say sought out the senator to illegally aid the Egyptian government and secure millions of dollars from a Qatari investment fund.

The two have pleaded not guilty, while a third businessman, Jose Uribe, has pleaded guilty and testified against Mr Menendez in the trial.

Mr Menendez's wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, also faces charges in the bribery case, but will go on trial at a later date after the judge granted her a delay to be treated for breast cancer. She has also pleaded not guilty.

During the prosecution's own closing arguments, which finished on Tuesday, federal attorney Paul Monteleoni told jurors: “This is a big case, but it all boils down to a classic case of corruption on a massive scale.

“You don't get to be the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by being clueless,” he added.

Mr Menendez was forced to step down as chairman of the influential Senate committee last year after the corruption charges against him were filed.

The senator has faced federal corruption charges before. He was tried in 2017, with the justice department alleging he did political favours for a wealthy Florida eye doctor in exchange for luxury holidays and other lavish gifts.

But that case ended in a mistrial after he was acquitted on some charges and jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.