The New Jersey Senator has been formally charged
Bob Menendez AFP

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, asked on Monday a judge allow them to face separate trials in the case that has seen them charged with bribery.

Menendez's lawyers said that he "intends to present a defense arguing (in part) that he lacked the requisite knowledge of much of the conduct and statements of his wife, Nadine."

"By this defense, Senator Menendez's legal team may have to argue, in effect, that any unlawful conduct — and we are aware of none —involved the actions of others (including Nadine), not the Senator," reads a passage of the letter submitted by the lawyers.

They added that Menendez would face a "Catch-22" situation, as he would be forced to "make an impossible and prejudicial choice between testifying on his own behalf and exercising his spousal privilege to avoid being converted through cross-examination into a witness against his spouse."

In a separate filing, lawyers for Nadine Menendez said a joint trial would likely demonstrate an "irreconcilable conflict between husband and wife" and that it would be "unfair to require either spouse to sacrifice the right to testify fully in one's own defense or the ability to maintain the confidentiality of privileged marital communications," according to NBC News.

Menendez and his wife stand accused of conspiring to perform "a series of acts on behalf of Egypt, including on behalf of Egyptian Military and intelligence officials".

Along with Egyptian-American businesswoman Wael Hana, Menendez's wife also communicated requests and directives from Egyptian officials to the senator, whose parents hailed from Cuba. The Department of Justice requires all people, companies and other entities who act on behalf of foreign governments to enter a register. The indictment against him alleges that he received bribes in the form of gold bars, cash and luxury vehicles.

In early January, Menendez was also accused of introducing a member of the Qatari royal family member and prominent figure in the country's investment fund to Fred Daibes, a New Jersey businessman, before the company invested millions in his real estate project.

According to The Associated Press, no new charges were added to the latest version of the indictment, which already charged Menendez in a bribery scheme.

Similarly to the accusations regarding his actions as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt, Menendez accepted cash and gold bars in exchange for introducing the member of the Qatari royal family to Daibes.

The senator temporarily stepped down from his position of chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but so far rejected all charges. In late September que used his Latin heritage to deflect criticism as his Capital Hill colleagues call on him to resign.

"Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction," said Menendez. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals."

Menéndez and the other defendants could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the initial charges. The figure could increase if they were to be found guilty of the new ones.

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