Lawyers for Sen. Robert Menendez duked it out with federal prosecutors in Newark Thursday over Speech or Debate Clause protections , alleged attempts to taint the grand jury with talk of prostitutes and other pre-trial issues in the New Jersey Democrat's corruption case. But Menendez stayed far from the courtroom.
Boarding an elevator in the Senate basement for a cloture vote shortly after 11 a.m., the second-term senator told CQ Roll Call, "as you can see, I'm doing my job," when asked if the trial would disrupt his work on Capitol Hill. Oral arguments on pending motions to dismiss the charges started at 10 a.m. Menendez, who temporarily stepped down as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was indicted on April 1 on 14 counts of public corruption, cast two votes Thursday on the Iran nuclear deal that he has blasted . At 11:30 a.m., the committee received a closed briefing on human trafficking, another issue on which Menendez has challenged the White House. After the corruption charges surfaced, Menendez argued to move the case from New Jersey to D.C. Defense attorneys said holding the trial in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse located blocks from the Capitol would be more convenient for the senator, his office and D.C.-based witnesses.
But the judge agreed with prosecutors and kept the trial in Newark.
On Monday, both sides filed a joint motion asking to vacate the Oct. 13 start date. With "over half a million pages of prosecution produced discovery, 3,000 pages of grand jury testimony, and nearly 200 witness interviews compiled over the course of a nearly 3-year investigation by the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and multiple United States Attorney’s Offices," plus hundreds of pages of motions from the defense, they agreed circumstances weigh in favor of continuance of the proceedings.
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