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New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez asserts his innocence on Senate floor

Democratic lawmaker faces multiple charges related to Egypt, Qatar

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to reporters this past year in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, he said in a Senate floor speech that he was innocent of the bribery charges being brought against him. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
1 of 3 | Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks to reporters this past year in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, he said in a Senate floor speech that he was innocent of the bribery charges being brought against him. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Fighting for his political life and possibly to avoid jail time, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, denying federal charges that he took bribes from Qatar in exchange for a friend to get a lucrative contract.

Menendez, a Democrat, said he was facing "persecution" by the Justice Department rather than prosecution, and the lawmaker defiantly said he did nothing wrong.

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Menendez, the former head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was hit with a three-charge bribery indictment in October for allegedly acting as a foreign agent for Egypt. Earlier this month, he also was slapped with new charges alleging that he took bribes from the Qatari government to help a friend.

"Why did the government not proceed with all of these accusations from the beginning? The answer is clear to me," Menendez said in his floor speech. "By filing three indictments ... it allows the government to keep the sensational story in the press. It poisons the jury pool and it seeks to convict me in the court of public opinion."

While questioning the foundation of the Justice Department's case against him, Menendez accused prosecutors of wanting a judicial victory rather than legal justice.

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He decried that some already have judged the case "despite my innocence and before a single piece of evidence has even been introduced in a court of law."

Menendez, who is up for re-election this year, will face a difficult battle for an incumbent against a strong field of Democrats lining up against him in the June primary, from Rep. Andy Kim to New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy.

If the case proceeds to trial, it will be the second time in his career Menendez will face off against federal prosecutors in his Senate career. He a 2017 trial, a jury deadlocked on charges that he accepted gifts from Egypt as an unregistered foreign agent. Those charges were dropped after the trial.

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