Menendez seeks to suppress evidence in corruption trial, questioning search warrants

Despite claiming that the gold bars and cash found in his home had reasonable explanations that would be revealed at trial, Sen. Bob Menendez is now trying to make sure he never has to explain them at all.

A motion filed earlier this week calls for that evidence to be suppressed because it was allegedly found using search warrants that violated Menendez’s Fourth Amendment rights. It calls the warrants incredibly invasive and retaliation for Menendez beating prior corruption charges in 2017.

“The government’s apparent zeal to ‘get back’ at Senator Menendez for defeating its prior prosecution has overwhelmed its sound judgment,” according to the filing.

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Menendez claims several of the government’s search warrants were “riddled with material misrepresentations and omissions that deceived the authorizing magistrate judge” and now require an evidentiary hearing. The filing argues that other search warrants were “overbroad and unparticularized.”

The 39-page memorandum filed on Jan. 22 to suppress the search warrants said warrants were so general they permitted the government to “rummage” through the senator’s personal life going back years before the conduct at issue and now should require judicial intervention.

“The government left no stone unturned in this years-long investigation into Senator Menendez,” it reads.

5,000 pages of search warrants and affidavits

The investigation included recorded conversations from confidential sources in Arabic that were translated from 2019, interviews with confidential sources in 2020 through 2022 and search warrants that began in January 2022.

More: This cast of characters has been linked to the Sen. Menendez investigation

More: Sen. Menendez’s alleged actions for Egypt a potential national security threat, experts say

The earlier search warrants and supporting affidavits totaled about 5,000 pages, “an unprecedented commitment of resources,” according to Menendez’s attorneys.

“Nevertheless, none of the ‘evidence’ obtained from these search warrants of alleged co-conspirators remotely tied Senator Menendez to knowing involvement in any alleged bribery scheme,” the memorandum said.

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The filings allege that the government “actively distorted the evidence and withheld key exculpatory information, misleading well-meaning magistrate judges into granting warrants that should never have been issued.”

The Jan. 22, 2022 search warrant to search Menendez’s e-mail and iCloud accounts to link him to the bribery scheme was based off a “brief description” of an audio recorded conversation between a confidential source and “Associate-1,” Menendez’s team agues.

After reviewing the transcript of the conversation, Menendez’s attorneys said it was “false” and “just the opposite, far from inculpating Senator Menendez in the recording.”

“With nothing tying Senator Menendez to the knowing receipt of a bribe, there simply was nobasis for the Magistrate Judge to authorize the invasive search,” they argue.

The warrants were also not limited to misrepresentations and omissions, but two were overbroad and “unconstitutional general warrants,” according to Menendez’s lawyers.

There is not any limitation of “exploratory rummaging” through Menendez’s phone records, emails, text messages and “personal digital belongings,” they say.

“To be absolutely clear, Senator Menendez does not believe that anything uncovered in these illegal searches comes remotely close to implicating his knowing involvement in the charged bribery schemes,” the motion says.

‘Ransacked Senator Menendez’s home’

According to the filing, FBI agents “ransacked Senator Menendez’s home” when executing a warrant on June 16, 2022.

The home owned by Nadine Arslanian Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez, in Englewood Cliffs where a search warrant was executed in 2022.

The home owned by Nadine Arslanian Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez, in Englewood Cliffs where a search warrant was executed in 2022.

“Agents broke down doors (even, in some cases, where the doors were unlocked) and tore apart closets, wardrobes, dressers and other storage locations in the home, flipped over documents and rifled through file folders,” it reads.

During that search, the FBI seized cash and gold bars that the government “made the centerpiece of its case.”

Months-long effort to discredit prosecutors

This is just the latest in filing in a months long effort by the senator and his legal team to discredit the efforts of the prosecutors.

Earlier this month Menendez spoke from the Senate chamber floor, saying that the timing of the indictment, originally filed in September, and then updated in October and again in early January, is part of a plan by 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,” which he said harms not just himself, but his Senate colleagues, the political establishment and the people of New Jersey.

Gold bars bearing marks indicating they were previously owned by alleged Fred Daibes were found in Sen. Robert Menendez's residence, according to an indictment announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan on Sept. 22, 2023. Daibes and two other New Jersey businessmen are also named in the indictment, along with Menendez's wife.

Gold bars bearing marks indicating they were previously owned by alleged Fred Daibes were found in Sen. Robert Menendez’s residence, according to an indictment announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan on Sept. 22, 2023. Daibes and two other New Jersey businessmen are also named in the indictment, along with Menendez’s wife.

Menendez said that the prosecutor’s office is engaged “not in a prosecution but a persecution” and that it wants a “victory, not justice.”

The state’s senior senator addressed the allegations directly by saying that he has received nothing from the government of Qatar or on behalf of the government of Qatar to “promote their image or their issues.”

What’s in the indictment

The most recent version of the indictment alleges that Menendez received payments including cash and gold bars from Edgewater developer Fred Daibes in return for helping Daibes get a Qatari investment company with ties to that country’s government to invest in a Daibes property by doing things that were viewed as favorable to the government of Qatar.

In June 2021, Menendez allegedly introduced Daibes to a member of the Qatari royal family and the principal of the investment firm, who then negotiated a multimillion-dollar investment in one of Daibes’ New Jersey real estate properties.

Manhattan, NY — October 18, 2023 -- Fred Daibes, involved in the bribery case involving Senator Robert Menendez enters the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan for a hearing on corruption charges.

Manhattan, NY — October 18, 2023 — Fred Daibes, involved in the bribery case involving Senator Robert Menendez enters the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan for a hearing on corruption charges.

Menendez would allegedly give statements supporting the Qatari government to Daibes before they were released publicly so he could share them with the Qatari investor and a Qatari government official associated with the investment firm, the indictment says.

Menendez and Egypt

Menendez was first indicted in this case last fall and faces corruption charges, brought by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Daibes and two other businessmen in exchange for helping them enrich themselves and trying to get them out of legal trouble.

He and the other four defendants — his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, and businessmen Daibes, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe — have all entered not guilty pleas.

The indictment alleges that between 2018 and 2022, Menendez and his wife “engaged in a corrupt relationship with Hana, Uribe and Daibes” to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for Menendez using his “power and influence to protect, to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt” even as he sat as chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Bribes allegedly included cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low- or no-show job and a Mercedes-Benz — much of which is detailed in photographs in the 50-page indictment.

The senator has said that the allegations that he worked as a foreign agent for Egypt are an “unprecedented accusation and it has never ever been levied against a sitting member of Congress.”

“It opens a dangerous door for the Justice Department to take the normal engagement of members of Congress with a foreign government and to transform those engagements into being a foreign agent,” he said.

Menendez is up for reelection this fall, and to secure his spot on the ballot, he will need to win the primary on June 4, likely around the time of closing arguments in the case if the trial date stands.

Rep. Andy Kim and New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy have announced that they will run in the Democratic primary against Menendez for the seat.

In December, Menendez’s attorneys requested that his trial be delayed by two months — from May 6 until July, after the primary election in which his Senate seat will be on the ballot — because of the amount of discovery submitted by the government, but the request was denied.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Menendez seeks to suppress evidence in corruption trial

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