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New Jersey businessman testifies he promised up to $250,000 in bribes in exchange for Sen. Bob Menendez’s help

A New Jersey businessman took his star turn on the witness stand in the bribery case against Sen. Bob Menendez on Friday, telling a jury he believed he had a $200,000-to-$250,000 deal in 2018 for the Democrat to pressure the New Jersey attorney general’s office to stop investigating his friends and family.

Jose Uribe testified in Manhattan federal court in the afternoon, providing key testimony against Menendez and two other businessmen charged in a conspiracy along with Menendez’s wife. Next week, Menendez’s lawyers will get to cross-examine the naturalized U.S. citizen.

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“Next week we get the truth,” Menendez said just before stepping into a car that carried him away from Manhattan federal court, where he has been on trial for the last month. Although he generally speaks briefly in Spanish each day leaving court, he made the comment about truth in English.

Uribe, 57, who pleaded guilty to charges in a March cooperation deal, was the star witness for the government in its bid to win a conviction against the senator, who once held the powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was forced out of it after charges were lodged last fall.

Menendez, 70, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for doing favors for the businessmen. Two businessmen and Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, also have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez’s trial has been postponed until at least July after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Uribe testified that he was close friends with Wael Hana, who is on trial with Menendez, when Hana told him in early 2018 that New Jersey state criminal investigations swirling around the trucking business of a friend of his and his own insurance business could be largely put to rest if he was willing to spend $200,000 to $250,000.

Uribe said Hana told him that he would go to Nadine Arslanian, who had begun dating Menendez that year, and then “Nadine would go to Senator Menendez,” although Uribe did not testify about how the couple could resolve multiple investigations.

Uribe said he held a July 13, 2018, political fundraiser for Menendez, which the senator attended, raising $50,000. He said he attended an afterparty with Menendez and Arslanian that included cocktails, along with “some laughs, some jokes and some dancing,” but there was no mention of the work he expected Menendez to do on his behalf.

“It was a crowded and loud place,” Uribe said.

He said his confidence that the deal was working faded in the fall when an investigator from the attorney general’s office asked to interview his employee.

“I was not happy,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz showed jurors a series of text messages between Uribe and Hana in which Uribe pressed his friend to get the senator to stop the criminal probes.

“Please be sure that your friend knows about this,” Uribe wrote to Hana in one text.

Pomerantz asked who he was referring to as “your friend.”

“Senator Menendez,” Uribe responded. Hana, according to the texts, responded: “I will.”

Hana arranged for Uribe to have dinner with Menendez and Arslanian at a restaurant in October 2018, but Uribe testified there was no mention of the deal.

“Nothing was discussed there of value I will say,” Uribe testified. “It was a pointless, a pointless meeting.”

Uribe said he began communicating directly with Nadine Arslanian in March 2019 and promised that he would buy her a car if she delivered on the deal to get the senator to shut down New Jersey criminal probes.

“She agreed to the terms,” he said.

When the prosecutor asked Uribe what he understood the terms of the deal to mean, he said he understood that Nadine Arslanian would contact Menendez and get him to use his “influence and power to do anything possible to stop and kill” the investigations.

On Thursday, former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal testified that Menendez in an early 2019 telephone call and in a September 2019 office meeting tried to talk to him about a criminal probe. Grewal said he followed his policy and refused to do so, telling Menendez to contact defense lawyers so they could reach out to trial-level prosecutors or the judge.

Uribe, of Clifton, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in March, saying during his plea that he gave Nadine Menendez a Mercedes-Benz in return for her husband “using his power and influence as a United States senator to get a favorable outcome and to stop all investigations related to one of my associates.”

Uribe was accused of buying the luxury car for Nadine Menendez after her previous car was destroyed when she struck and killed a man crossing the street. She did not face criminal charges in connection with that crash.

Menendez is also accused of helping another New Jersey business associate get a lucrative deal with the government of Egypt. Prosecutors allege that in exchange for bribes, Menendez did things that benefited Egypt, including ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid.

Menendez also has been charged with using his international clout to help a friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund, including by taking actions favorable to Qatar’s government.

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