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In Menendez Trial After US Closing Defense Cites Speech or Debate Clause Gray Zone

by Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, July 9 – Amid reports of investigation against Sen. Robert Menendez for taking gold bars, Inner City Press' sources on September 21 it to expect on Friday, September 22 an appearance in Federal court in Manhattan by Menendez and his wife Nadine Arslanian. This scoop was true.

Later a superseder was unveiled, including charges of bribes to act for Qatar...

On April 11, 2024 after Nadine Menendez and then the government asked for delay, to July or undefined, Judge Stein severed her case and reaffirmed May 6, Inner City Press thread

On Sunday night April 14 the US wrote in again asking for a delay to July, six page letter on Patreon here.

But Judge Stein told the parties to confer and report by April 16 at 1 pm. Then he set an April 17 conference, which Inner City Press live tweeted and dubbed "Berate-gate," thread

On May 13, jury selection began - but did not finish. Abit later, Menendez got into an car with FOP NJ plates.

On May 14 jury selection continued but was not yet completed, from the ending, thread

Late on May 14, the US Attorney's Office filed opposition to slides the defense wants to use in its opening arguments, including quotes from Colin Powell and MLK, and when Nadine came into possession of gold - full letter on Patreon here

Inner City Press live tweeted jury selection and then opening arguments here, then filmed Bob's exit (he said he thought it went well and that his guy did great).

On May 21, the US Attorney's Office put on Wael Hana's lawyer, then a US State Department official working on Congressional approval (or holds) on arms transfer to Egypt, thread here.

On May 23, with the trial in haitus, docketed was Menendez' lawyers opposition to quashing his subpoena for Jose Uribe's attorney proffer and communications with SDNY prosecutors, filing on Patreon here

On May 29, Inner City Press live tweeted, omitting Morton's steakhouse but including this

On May 30, Menendez's lawyer's (long) cross, including this.

On May 31, starting 1 pm, the agent was cross examined, and then USDA Ted McKinney on direct, thread

  After the trial day, Inner City Press filed Menendez' walk to his Jersey-plated car; asked why he called McKinney he said, Wait for the cross [examination].

Nadine Menendez hired a new lawyer, who previously represented Sydney Powell among others. Then this: "ORDER as to Nadine Menendez: At the request of the defendant and with the consent of the government [Doc. No. 434], the status conference is adjourned from June 10 to June 12 at 5 :00 p.m.(Signed by Judge Sidney H. Stein on 6/3/2024)."

On June 4 Judge Stein dockted a partially redacted Order in which he denied Menendez's request that the prosecutors give him impeachment material about a Confidential Human Source they are not going to call as a witness - but Menendez said he will.

On June 5, Inner City Press live tweeted - and afterward asked Menendez a question. Thread.

On June 6, after more cross of Agent Graves, Gurbir Grewal testified, thread

On June 7, after an FBI fingerprint expert, cooperator Jose Uribe, Inner City Press live tweeted, thread

On June 10, Uribe finished his direct examination around 4 pm, then counsel for Hana, not yet Menendez, began cross examination, thread.

On June 11, Uribe was cross examined - though not on the "strip club issue" after which out on Worth Street Menendez decried Uribe's crimes. Thread

On June 12, after the end of Uribe (including drunk driving and the "little bell"), US Attorney of NJ Sellinger took the stand, thread.

On June 13, trial day - and next day - was canceled by Daibes calling in with COVID: thread.

And then, book: GOLD BAR BAR Menendez Trial I, on Amazon here.

On June 18, after Daibes' COVID, things resumed with Sellinger, followed by Matt Soliman.

On June 20, alongside an FBI agent summary witness, a prosecution office witness out of order, thread.

On June 24, Menendez's staffer Sarah Arkin took the stand, from the thread

On June 25, Sarah Arkin finished up, including about upcoming job at State Department. Then, a currency (and money laundering) expert from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. From the thread

On June 26, there testimony about currency, and then a jocular Armenian jeweler, from the thread

On June 27, the Senate Ethics Committee director, then a cell site expert, from the thread

On June 28, the last US witness, on Menendez's M&T account, and gold in Nadine's Chase Bank safety deposit box, thread

On July 1 the defense case began, his and Nadine's sisters amid a flurry of motions, thread

On July 2, at 5 instead of 4 pm, rapid rulings on exhibits to set up Menendez's defense resting on Friday, thread

On July 3, Team Menendez rested (then outside court Menendez said the US had not proved its case so he didn't testify), thread

On July 8, after a Hana witness and charge conference, half of the prosecutors' closing, thread

On July 9, the rest of the prosecution's summation, then Menendez's lawyer Adam Fee, not yet finishing (and Menendez silent on his way to his car), from the thread:

Jury entering! Judge: Mr. Monteleoni, you may continue with the Government's summation. AUSA Monteleoni: I have several hours more, more counts &I will be speaking slower. Now, the NJ AG counts. Menendez says, give my girlfriend a Mercedes and give me a case number

  AUSA Monteleoni: Menendez used a fake claim of discrimination because it was serious and could get the case dismissed. Parra's lawyer who had reviewed the case did not believe it was discriminatory, only that it was about a private debt  

AUSA Monteleoni: Menendez wanted that car too, he wanted to keep Nadine happy. Nadine checked with Menendez on the color scheme - "which one do you prefer?" She is furious at Hana for leaving to Egypt. He was supposed to take her to the car dealer, Ray Catena  AUSA Monteleoni: This is the kind of relationship in which they share things, including how Nadine was able to get the car she could not afford in January. And when it's done, "Congratulations, amour de ma vie, we are now the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes"

 AUSA Monteleoni: Nadine got a flip phone because her ex boyfriend was spoofing her with texts. The flip phone was not registered on Nadine's name, and Menendez called her on it - it's part of Menendez's efforts to cover his tracks 

AUSA Monteleoni: You saw Uribe. He was straight forward, the same on cross as on direct. Now they argue that he was lying about a bell, of all things. But Nadine was trying to buy a bell. Menendez is not the puppet of the person he is calling with a bell. 

AUSA Monteleoni: This is not about passing judgment on Menendez's marriage - it's about, he calls the shots. It's like with the bell. And Uribe only gets to sit in the backyard with Menendez and cognac because he is paying for Nadine's car  Judge: I want to give the jurors a stretch break... [Jurors stretch]

AUSA Monteleoni: It's interstate - the payment to Mercedes Benz Financial Services in Michigan was made from The Bronx. That provides venue as well, The Bronx is in the SDNY. The waters, too.   AUSA Monteleoni: Now the Qatar bribes and the NJ US Attorney position. Daibes gave Menendez at least one $10,000 pack of cash. Look at this black men's jacket with a TD Bank envelope of cash in it. Next to his shoes. On the tape, it's Daibes' fingerprints 

AUSA Monteleoni: At least one of the bills was first put into circulation in October 2020. And Menendez was not locked out of his own bedroom or his own closet. Don't be distracted by her son Andre's skull tie being in there. In the safe, 4 more envelopes of cash 

AUSA Monteleoni: Daibes tells Nadine, Bob is an amazing friend, amazing in all he did. What did he mean? He installed Sellinger as US Attorney. They now try to imply this was all about Menendez's shoulder surgery. That makes no sense. 

AUSA Monteleoni: A few weeks later, Menendez reached out again to the US Attorney's Office. Right the, Daibes' driver meets Nadine and she writes, thanks, Christmas in January! Then she goes to the jeweler with two gold bars to sell. Quid pro quo, this for that 

AUSA Monteleoni: So, let's talk about what the defense chose to put before you to try to explain where all this cash came from. They had no burden, but they did. Remember Menendez's financial analyst? He admitted a page was inaccurate 

AUSA Monteleoni: Even using Menendez' own assumed numbers, and assuming he never spend a dollar of what he withdrew back to the 1990s - it's still $90,000 short. This bag is *inches* away from Menendez's jackets. This is not the daughter in law's bag  

AUSA Monteleoni: Daibes gave at least four kilo bars of gold. That is not a friendship gift. They were worth close to a quarter of a million dollars. And there were two more bars, only the serial numbers weren't written down or photographed.  AUSA Monteleoni: Menendez used his official position to obtain cash and gold. Was there an agreement, a conspiracy to commit extortion? Of course there was. As to FARA - did Menendez engage in political activity for Egypt? Yes. The draft letter 

AUSA Monteleoni: Menendez advised how Egypt should respond to questions about its role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. That was political activity. Then his own staff said, All of this Egypt stuff is very weird. You know about the no show job with ISEG Halal  AUSA Monteleoni: Venue is satisfied by the dinner at Mister Chao's in Manhattan. Then came the obstruction. His lawyers went to the [SDNY] US Attorney's Office and said Menendez didn't know about it - that was a corrupt endeavor to obstruct justice 

AUSA Monteleoni: All of the defendants are guilty. Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees. The reason for the "Find My iPhone" app doesn't matter. This is about a politician who put his power up for sale and the people who were willing to pay him for it.  AUSA Monteleoni: The case is about whether Cuban store cash in their house. It's not about whether all the cash in his house is from bribes- it's about if any is from bribes. Look at the conduct. He believed that the power entrusted to him is his, not the public's 

AUSA Monteleoni: Menendez blames Nadine for all the bad searches on his phone, for what's in their bedroom closet. Blaming his daughter in law for what's in his basement. Passing the buck to those close to him. The buck stops here, the 1000s of bucks stop here.  AUSA: Find them guilty. Judge: Let's break.
 [With jury out]

Menendez's lawyer: They came very close to Speech or Debate, talking about the power to approve or deny 100s of millions of dollars of lethal aid. We're not even sure what relief we're asking for at this point. We'll discuss it over the break.   They're back. Judge: It's unfortunate, but I don't think I'm going to intervene on it. Mr. Fee, you may begin. Jury entering. Menendez's lawyer Adam Fee: Hey everybody. This is important for my client. You have the opportunity to acquit him of every charge. 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: A one sided story sounds compelling. So our goal has been to try to point out to you where are you getting half truths, the absence of evidence being filled in. They have not met their burden. The cash and gold were not bribes 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: If he made a simple two minute phone call, could it just be for a constituent? Yes. It was good for the country. I'm going to call him Bob. Let's look at the closet - it's locked, women's clothing, a locked safe  Menendez's lawyer Fee: The prosecutors were workshopping their case during the trial, even during their summation. Here's what the Agent said: gold and cash. You don't know anything about Qatar, Daibes - they want you to focus on the gold  Menendez's lawyer Fee: The blazer should make you ask, is it a credible story? This is a case with a lot of inferences. You don't have a text or an email on this. The agent changed his testimony. We showed the ties - they were teenage boy's ties 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: They want you to fill in the gaps in their evidence. Note - the number of embassy employees is public. Period. Here's the thing though - I think you found something interesting in the testimony. I don't think they realized it's public.

 Menendez's lawyer Fee: When US diplomats go to Egypt, they go through the airport. They have diplomatic passports. Egyptian intelligence knows. Anyway Bob Menendez sent the information to Nadine, and SHE went it on to other people. 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: You don't have to find him innocent. You have to question the government's case. They keep ignoring the evidence that it bad for their story. This shows you what you're dealing with.  Menendez's lawyer Fee: They take one line of one of their charts and tell you, it proves conspiracy. It's not true. Proving conspiracy is a serious thing. And they are lacking in credibility. I'm not going to spend my time dealing with this cherry picked nonsense. 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: If you listen to them, it's like Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold. Who has that much cash in their house? [A beat] Don't answer that question. Look, it is not unusual in these communities to give gold, to give the bride's weight in gold 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: The gold with Daibes' serial numbers on it? Photo on Nadine's phone. Nadine had to find a way to get by without a career. These are the items that Katia told you were divided between them. Nadine was supporting himself by selling gold  Menendez's lawyer Fee: The Senate Ethics witness, she disproved the charges, I could submit. She was told that Bob approached Senator Coons about the gold that Nadine had. Bob asked her want to do, and he did it.  

Menendez's lawyer Fee: Bob filed the forms about the gold months before the search warrant. There is no evidence he knew he was under investigation. Bob decided to go to the Ethics people, and disclosed. There was a media frenzy. It is unusual. Not for Nadine  Menendez's lawyer Fee: Even if he was taking bribes, this doesn't make sense - it is being twisted. The gold and the cash hooks you. I can spend six hours tell you this. Judge: Let's break.  [With jury out]

AUSA Monteleoni: He continued to run afoul of the Court's rulings. He repeatedly referred to what the jury would do - he said, Imagine facing that - I found myself wanting to object, I am trying not to. That is improper, I have never seen it done 

Judge: Mr. Fee?

Menendez's lawyer Fee: It is totally appropriate, rhetorically appropriate, to point out that they are filling in the gaps without calling witnesses. Judge: You can point out the burden, and that they are relying on charts. But you cross the line  Menendez's lawyer Fee: If the prosecutors want you to believe that terrorists want this information, they could have done a better job.

Judge: I'm going to read the jury the uncalled witness charge 

Jury entering! Judge: There were references to things being public, that you could find online, Google - no, don't do it. And each party had an equal opportunity to call any person as a witness. The law does not impose a duty on the defense to call any witness. 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: Bob like most of us has done a lot of Google searches. So why did he search gold? It's common in his circles. You're only seeing a slice of his life. Bob was working diplomatically. Vasken Khorozian, the jeweler who I miss, talked about it 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: They are arguing that any money Bob didn't take out of an ATM must be evidence of a bribe. That has not been proven. There is zero evidence of Bob ever discussing a bribe, or suggesting he was doing something for a bribe 

Menendez's lawyer Fee: Nadine also had cash in that house. She lived her life largely outside the banking system. Her family had that tradition for decades. Much of the cash in the house was old...  Judge Stein: Mr. Fee, will you be finishing today?

 Menendez's lawyer Fee: I will not. Judge Stein: So we'll go to 5 pm, then pick it up tomorrow.  Menendez's lawyer Fee: Bob's praise of Qatar was a drop in an ocean of praise. [Puts up slide] Judge: We'll end for the day here.

Jury leaves

 Judge: How much longer? Fee: 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Lustberg for Hana: 2 1/2. De Castro for Daibes: 1 hour or 1:15...  Inner City Press will continue coverage

More on X for Subscribers here and Substack here

The case is US v. Menendez, et al., 23-cr-490 (Stein)

More on Substack here


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