Sen. Bob Menendez reveals his wife has breast cancer as presentation of evidence begins at his trial

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 11: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Alternate crop) Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Menendez depart a Manhattan court following an arraignment on new charges in the federal bribery case against them on March 11, 2024 in New ((Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images))

Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that his wife has breast cancer and will require a mastectomy, a revelation made just as the presentation of evidence began at his New York bribery trial.

The New Jersey Democrat said he was revealing his wife's health crisis at her request after repeated inquiries from the media.

"We are, of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease," the senator said in a statement.

He added: "She will require follow up surgery and possibly radiation treatment. We hope and pray for the best results."

Previously, lawyers for Nadine Menendez had requested her trial on charges in the case be delayed after she had been diagnosed with a serious health issue. Judge Sidney H. Stein had postponed her trial until at least July. She has pleaded not guilty. The couple began dating in 2018 and married two years later.

Menendez issued the statement in an email as opening statements were completed and the presentation of evidence began at his trial in Manhattan federal court with testimony from an FBI agent who led the raid on the Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, home he shared with his wife.

The agent, Aristotelis Kougemitros, described the June 2022 raid when gold bars and more than $400,000 in cash were discovered by a team of agents at the home.

He said the agents also recovered cellphones and jewelry among 52 items seized from the home.

The senator is on trial this week with two of three businessmen who have been charged along with him. The senator has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. A third businessman has pleaded guilty in the case and will testify against the others.

Lawyers for New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes and businessman Wael Hana spoke to jurors Thursday, a day after a prosecutor and Menendez’s lawyer gave opening statements.

Attorney Lawrence Lustberg, representing Hana, said prosecutors had built their case against his client on "innocent acts."

He said Hana was longtime friends since 2009 with Nadine Menendez and that Hana and Nadine Menendez had exchanged expensive gifts over the years. He said there was never a time when Hana either directly to Bob Menendez or indirectly through Nadine Menendez gave a bribe in exchange for official acts by the senator.

Attorney Cesar De Castro, representing Daibes, told jurors the case was about relationships and prosecutors were trying to exploit facts about a three-decade friendship between the senator and Daibes to claim crimes occurred. He said they will conclude his client was not guilty.

On Wednesday, attorney Avi Weitzman, representing Bob Menendez, told jurors his client was unaware that his spouse had accepted gifts from the three businessmen and did not know about cash and gold bars hidden in a closet at their home.

The statement came after an opening statement by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz in which the prosecutor repeatedly highlighted gold bars and cash found in the home.

Menendez has held public office continuously since 1986, serving as a state legislator before 14 years as a U.S. congressman. In 2006, then-Gov. Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to the Senate seat he vacated when he became governor.

The trial, which began Monday, is projected to last up to two months.