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Sen. Bob Menendez bribery case one step closer to jury deliberations as closing arguments wrap up

Closing arguments continue at Sen. Bob Menendez's corruption trial
Closing arguments continue at Sen. Bob Menendez's corruption trial 02:35

Washington — A lawyer for Sen. Bob Menendez finished his hours-long closing argument on Wednesday afternoon, asking jurors to "resist the temptation to pick the salacious story about a corrupt politician," because, he argued, prosecutors presented a "painfully thin case." 

"This case, it dies here, today," said Adam Fee, Menendez's lawyer, calling the evidence "shaky and rotten to its core." 

The New Jersey Democrat was indicted on 16 felony charges that stem from an alleged bribery scheme. Leaving court Wednesday, Menendez told reporters his defense team has "stripped away the government's false narrative and exposed their lies." 

Fee argued over two days that the prosecution has failed to directly connect evidence of bribery or corruption to the senator. 

"When you acquit Senator Menendez, the United States wins. The United States of America wins when thin cases brought by overzealous prosecutors are rejected because the evidence isn't there," Fee said. 

But the prosecution said in its summation that there was a "clear pattern of corruption," portraying Menendez as pulling the strings behind the alleged operation that spanned four years. Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, are accused of using his political influence to benefit two foreign governments, while helping three New Jersey businessmen in return for bribes that included stacks of cash, gold bars, mortgage payments and a Mercedes-Benz convertible

Both have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez's trial was postponed until later this summer as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. 

Menendez is being tried alongside two businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, who have also pleaded not guilty. 

At several points during the trial, which has stretched into its ninth week, the senator's lawyers have tried to pin the blame on his wife, saying she kept her financial challenges and dealings with the businessmen a secret from Menendez. But Fee said Wednesday, "This is not shifting blame to anyone." 

"The evidence has been crystal clear that he did not have any knowledge of those payments and that Nadine wanted it that way," Fee said. "And the reason she wanted that ... she had lost Bob once because of the chaos and drama of her life, and she was trying hard, understandably, to present the image that would keep Bob with her." 

Fee said there's nothing criminal about Menendez's actions. The senator calling prosecutors to discuss criminal cases involving his constituents and his actions toward Egypt, including secretly ghostwriting a letter for Egypt that lobbied his Senate colleagues to release military aid were all part of his job. 

"His actions were lawful, normal, and good for his constituents and this country," Fee told jurors on Tuesday. 

Since mid-May, jurors have heard from more than three dozen witnesses and have seen a mountain of evidence, including text messages, emails, financial records, call logs and photos. They've learned about the inner workings of the federal government through testimony from former administration officials, Senate staffers and FBI agents. They've also held some of the gold bars found during a search of the senator's home in their own hands. 

Jurors also heard closing arguments from lawyers for Hana and Daibes on Wednesday. Daibes' lawyer will continue his summation Thursday before the prosecution's rebuttal. 

Ash Kalmar contributed reporting. 

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