Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Ex-N.J. attorney general testifies Sen. Bob Menendez confronted him twice over a pending criminal case

By 37ci3 Jun7,2024

NEW YORK – A former New Jersey attorney general testified Thursday The bribery trial of Senator Bob Menendez The Democrat twice tried to discuss the ongoing criminal case with him, calling his requests “pretty unprecedented.”

Gurbir Grewal was called as a witness by the prosecutors to support their case Menendez sought to intervene in a criminal case at the request of one of three New Jersey businessmen who allegedly paid him bribes including gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars and a luxury car.

Menendez, 70, is on trial in Manhattan federal court along with two businessmen. The three pleaded not guilty. A third businessman has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify.

Grewal, now chief executive of the Securities and Exchange Commission, recalled that Menendez first contacted him in early 2019, shortly after he started working as New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer.

He testified that his cousin, who was close friends with Menendez, asked if Grewal could give Menendez his personal cell phone number, and he agreed.

Menendez called one afternoon, interrupting a meeting, but Grewal said he stepped outside the office to take the call.

After some small talk, Menendez expressed concern that some state investigators were treating Hispanics in the trucking industry differently than non-Hispanic workers, Grewal said.

Grewal said he asked Menendez if the concern stemmed from a criminal matter, and when he said it did, he followed his policy and ordered Menendez to have a defense attorney contact prosecutors or the judge about any related matter.

He said the 5- to 6-minute phone call ended shortly after the senator said nothing more about it.

Grewal said he didn’t tell any prosecutors in his office about it because he didn’t want anyone working on the case to feel pressured or intimidated.

He said he wanted them to make any decisions about their jobs “without any outside input.”

The following September, Grewal testified, Menendez requested a meeting at his office in Newark, New Jersey, and Grewal left, bringing another senior official, the deputy attorney general.

Grewal said he thought the senator wanted to talk about his office’s policies, but Menendez brought up his complaint about the treatment of Hispanics after he was surprised he brought someone with him instead, which Grewal said he often does when he meets with lawmakers.

Grewal said he asked again if his complaint was related to the criminal case he referenced in a phone call earlier in the year, and Menendez said it did. Gwal said he reiterated his earlier instruction that defense attorneys handle any issues related to the judge or prosecutors handling the case.

“I got the impression that he didn’t like how it was handled, but he didn’t say how it should have been handled,” Grewal said.

Grewal said the conversation ended shortly after he told Menendez, “I can’t talk to you about this.”

After leaving the meeting, he and the accompanying deputy attorney general were standing by the car that would take them away when a colleague said, “Wow, that was rude,” Grewal said.

During cross-examination, Menendez’s defense attorney, Avi Weitzman, said of Grewal that the senator was “extremely polite and respectful in all of our interactions.”

When Weitzman asked him if Menendez had asked him to look into the matter or threatened to “take you to Congress,” Grewal laughed and said there was no such conversation.

“I wasn’t afraid of retaliation,” Grewal said, adding that when the Attorney General closed the investigation, Menendez “just carried on” with small talk. “He didn’t pressure me”

Still, Grewal said it was “unheard of in my experience” for a lawmaker to provide information on a specific ongoing criminal case.

Weitzman said a state lawmaker and the governor’s chief of staff tried to talk Grewal into a case while he was attorney general.

As Menendez left the courthouse Thursday, he told a reporter in Spanish, “Defending human rights is not a crime.”

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By 37ci3

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