Wife’s Ex-Boyfriend and Fear of Poverty at Center of Menendez’s Defense

Senator Robert Menendez’s lawyers have cast him as a man who was duped by his dazzling wife, Nadine Menendez, and unaware of the gold bars and cash she kept in her locked bedroom closet — or the deals she made to get them.

Now, as they prepare to rebut claims that the senator was at the center of a yearslong bribery conspiracy, they are expected to call witnesses who will describe the couple’s tumultuous early relationship, Mr. Menendez’s parents’ history as Cuban refugees and the senator’s habit of storing cash at home.

After seven weeks of trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, prosecutors plan to rest their case on Friday, paving the way for the defense to begin offering evidence intended to poke holes in the government’s case. Mr. Menendez, 70, and Ms. Menendez, 57, are charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for the senator’s efforts to steer aid to Egypt, prop up an ally’s business monopoly and disrupt criminal investigations on behalf of friends.

The senator, a Democrat, is on trial, however, without his wife. A judge postponed Ms. Menendez’s trial after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Ms. Menendez’s sister and the senator’s sister are expected to be the first two witnesses called to the stand in Mr. Menendez’s defense, according to a government letter filed on Thursday and a courtroom exchange after jurors were excused for the day.

There was no mention of the senator’s being called to testify in his own defense, although that could change.

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