Sen. Bob Menendez got a hand from colleagues on both sides of the political aisle in his corruption trial Thursday, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and fellow New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker testifying that he is trustworthy and honest.
“In very difficult circumstances he always keeps his word,” Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said during about six minutes of testimony in Newark, New Jersey. “A handshake is all you need from Bob. He’s a very honest, hardworking senator.”
Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen are charged in an alleged bribery scheme in which Melgen offered Menendez free flights on his private jet and other gifts in exchange for help with business issues. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
The political stakes of the trial are high, with Democratic senators facing pressure from national Republicans to push Menendez out of the Senate if he’s convicted. If Menendez resigns or is voted out of the Senate by a two-thirds majority before Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in January, the Republican would get to choose a replacement for the last year of the term.
Menendez is up for re-election next year.
Booker said that one of the “best things about politics for me the last four years is I get to work with Bob Menendez.”
“He is not a politician; he is someone who if he gives you his word you can take it to the bank,” Booker said. “He has never let me down.”
Graham said that he got to know Menendez when they worked on immigration reform and also on national security issues affecting Israel.
“He can push back against a lot of political pressure, which is very hard to do in my business,” Graham said.
Graham’s office said that he traveled to Newark at his own expense.
The trial is in its eighth week. Neither Melgen nor Menendez has testified. The defense is expected to rest its case soon, after which the two sides are expected to spar over how U.S. District Judge William Walls is to instruct the jury on the law.
The definition of official bribery was narrowed by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has been responsible for the recent overturning of several politicians’ corruption convictions.