Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said Friday that Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey may have a good defense by blaming his wife, Nadine, for the gifts he allegedly received.

Menendez and his wife were initially charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in September, six months before the Justice Department announced new charges that included obstruction of justice, extortion and honest services wire fraud in a superseding indictment filed March 5. Kirschner said that the fact the Menendez couple is being tried separately would help their defense.

“Once the cases were severed, you know, there’s a preference in the law for codefendants to be tried together jointly in one trial,” Kirschner said. “That’s true for lots of reasons. Once his wife’s case was severed out, and she’s going to be tried separately in the future, it gives Menendez what I refer to as the empty chair defense. His attorneys will figuratively be pointing to the empty chair where his codefendant, his wife, should be seated if they were being tried jointly, and say ‘she’s the bad person, she’s the guilty one. She did it all and he didn’t know anything about it.’”


Kirschner, though, noted that his wife could use the same defense and that the government had significant evidence against the New Jersey senator.

“There is some powerful evidence,” Kirschner said. “Not only $480,000 sort of, you know, hidden away throughout their home, not only, you know, more than 10 gold bars, but some of the evidence is after these gold bars were allegedly given to the senator and his wife, the senator says he knows nothing about it, but some evidence that has been previewed by the prosecutors include Senator Menendez googling, and I quote, one kilo gold bar price. That doesn’t seem to be something you would randomly Google, and I will tell you, I love that kind of evidence and I used it all the time when I was a prosecutor.”

Menendez announced he would step down “temporarily” as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee in the wake of the September indictment. He faced trial in 2017 over corruption allegations that ended with a hung jury.

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