Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

N.J.’s top federal prosecutor testifies for government at Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial

By 37ci3 Jun13,2024



NEW YORK – New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor testified before the Senate on Wednesday. Bob MenendezA bribery trial in which the Democrat wanted to discuss the prosecution of a New Jersey real estate developer with Joe Biden before recommending him for the position after he wins the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger’s testimony to resume Thursday is the second time in the five-week Manhattan federal trial that a top law enforcement official has said he wants to talk about Menendez’s criminal case involving a New Jersey businessman. .

Last week A The former attorney general of the state of New Jersey testified Menendez has twice confronted him about the ongoing criminal case against the New Jersey businessman, and both times the attorney general has declined to discuss the matter.

Prosecutors say the interference was an attempt by the 70-year-old Menendez to reward businessmen who bribed him and his wife with gold bars, tens of thousands of dollars in cash and cars.

When prosecutors indicted Menendez, his wife and three businessmen last fall, court documents said Menendez recommended Sellinger as a U.S. attorney because he wanted to protect Sellinger’s longtime friend Fred Daibes, a prominent New Jersey real estate developer who was facing federal trial. he said he believed he could have an impact. criminal charges.

Daibes is on trial along with Menendez and another businessman, Vael Hana. All three pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Jose Uribe, spent four days on the witness stand Wednesday after pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against the others.

The trial for Nadine Menendez was postponed Wednesday until at least August, depending on the speed of her recovery from breast cancer surgery. He also pleaded not guilty.

Sellinger, who has held New Jersey’s top federal law enforcement post since December 2021, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

He testified that he had been friends with Menendez and hosted political fundraisers for him since the early 2000s, when he began contributing to his congressional campaigns.

The relationship grew over time as they increasingly ate dinner together and played golf with their son, and Sellinger believed Menendez would nominate her to be New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor if Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential race, she said.

When Menendez married in the fall of 2020, Sellinger attended the wedding, where he also saw Daibes, Sellinger testified.

After Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, Sellinger said he met with Menendez in his Washington office to talk about the U.S. attorney post. He said he shared his thoughts on the office.

Later, he told Menendez that Daibes had a criminal record and the senator believed he was being “treated unfairly.”

“And he said he hoped that if I became the U.S. attorney, I would take a hard look at it,” Sellinger said.

Sellinger told Menendez that he knew nothing about it and that he planned to carefully review all cases in his office.

The next day, Sellinger said, he called Menendez after remembering that he had dealt with a lawsuit against Daibes while in private practice and that the Justice Department might eventually decide to drop anything related to Daibes.

Sellinger recalled that Menendez understood, but a few days later the senator told him that the White House wanted to run several potential candidates and that he had decided not to recommend Sellinger for the position.

When Sellinger found out a few months later that the person in line for the job was no longer available, he reached out to Menendez to remind him he was still interested, Sellinger said.

He said he later received a call from a political consultant who had been the director of Menendez’s New Jersey office, asking him about his plans for the U.S. attorney’s office if he were to run.

Sellinger said he repeated what he had told Menendez, including that he expected he might be able to recuse himself from the Daibes case as a result of his work on the lawsuit affecting him.

Nevertheless, Sellinger said Menendez recommended that he be nominated for the job in the spring.

Sellinger said after being sworn in that he raised a potential conflict of interest involving Daibes with the Justice Department in Washington on his first day as U.S. attorney, and was told the following week that he had nothing to do with the case.

Three months later, he said, the political consultant asked to meet him for lunch and said he wanted to ask him questions after a general conversation about work.

“I said, ‘Let me stop you there,'” Sellinger testified. “As a US attorney, I am not authorized to have any conversation with any elected federal official or their representatives regarding the official business of the office.”

Sellinger said he called Menendez in the spring of 2022 to invite him to speak at a public ceremony celebrating Sellinger’s appointment as a U.S. attorney.

“He said, ‘I’ll pass,'” Sellinger recalled.

Sellinger said the senator later said, “The only thing worse than not having a relationship with the United States attorney is when people think you have a relationship with the United States attorney, but you don’t.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz asked him if he understood what Menendez was saying.

“We no longer had a relationship,” Sellinger said.

In cross-examination to continue Thursday morning, defense attorney Avi Weitzman asked Sellinger if Menendez had ever asked him to do anything inappropriate in the past 20 years.

“I never believed he was asking me to do anything improper or unethical,” Sellinger responded.



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