Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez says wife has breast cancer as his bribery trial unfolds

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Nadine Menendez, the wife of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who has been charged with acting as a foreign agent and taking bribes, has breast cancer, the New Jersey senator said Thursday.

Nadine Menendez is also charged in the case, and both have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez is set to go on trial in July, while the senator’s trial began this week.

“Nadine is suffering from Grade 3 breast cancer, which will require her to have mastectomy surgery. We are, of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease. She will require follow-up surgery and possibly radiation treatment. We hope and pray for the best results,” the senator said in a statement.

Bob Menendez has been charged with acting as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt and assisting the government of Qatar, all while taking bribes from several New Jersey businessmen. He is being tried with two of his co-defendants: Wael Hana, an Egyptian American businessman, and Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer, both of whom have also pleaded not guilty.

At his trial this week, the senator’s lawyer, Avi Weitzman, suggested to jurors during opening statements that many of the items the senator allegedly took as bribes – including gold bars and a luxury car – were owned or obtained by his wife.

Weitzman repeatedly argued that the couple have mostly led “separate lives” and “had separate finances,” before spelling out a series of “financial concerns that (Nadine) kept from Bob,” whom Weitzman described as being smitten by a “beautiful and tall, international woman.”

In explaining the gold bars found in Menendez’s house by investigators, Weitzman again pointed the finger at the senator’s wife, who, he said, kept the “family gold.” Nadine, Weitzman said, is from Lebanon, where keeping gold is “cultural,” in part because of the region’s historically unstable currencies, while adding that gifts of gold and silver are common for weddings and engagements.

He also said the gold bars were found in Nadine’s locked closet, which the senator didn’t have access to.

According to prosecutors, after search warrants were executed on Menendez’s home – where gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were found – and elsewhere, the senator and his wife attempted to cover up the bribes by paying back the businessmen for the luxury car and a mortgage payment, claiming they were merely loans.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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