Judge struggles to seat jurors at Sen. Bob Menendez’s trial

A Manhattan judge struggled to find impartial jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial Tuesday, as he rattled off senators that could either be named or even called to testify — including Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Roughly a dozen prospective jurors told Manhattan federal Judge Sidney Stein that they couldn’t be impartial for various reasons, with some saying they already knew too much about the case to be able to leave their opinions at the door.

“I’m a news junkie, and I’ve learned about the case already significantly. I knew it was Bob Menendez the second I walked in,” one potential panelist said.

A judge struggled to seat jurors to oversee the corruption trial against Sen. Bob Menendez. AFP via Getty Images

“As did many people,” Stein fired back.

The judge asked the man if he could still be fair and consider only the evidence at trial in spite of his prior knowledge about the case, which the man said he thought he could.

In total, Stein excused 27 potential jurors Tuesday after previously letting about three dozen go on Monday for logistical reasons or for bias. It’s unclear whether he excused the self-proclaimed news junkie.

The trial is slated to last through July, which eliminated many prospective panelists who said they couldn’t sit on a case that long because of their jobs, vacation plans or medical reasons.

Stein also listed names of current and former US politicians who will either be mentioned at trial or called to the witness stand, including Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and others.

The judge told prospective jurors that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker could be mentioned at trial. REUTERS

Jury selection will continue Wednesday and openings statements could begin later in the day.

Menendez, 70, is accused, alongside his wife Nadine, of accepting bribes including bars of gold, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a Mercedes convertible and other luxury gifts.

In exchange, the senior Democrat senator — who headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — used his political power to benefit the countries of Qatar and Egypt and to dole out favors for three New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. He’s since stepped down from helming the committee.

A slew of other US politicians, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, could be mentioned or called to testify at trial, the judge told panelists. AP

Menendez is on trial alongside Hana and Daibes, while Nadine’s trial was postponed until July for medical reasons and Uribe took a guilty plea and is cooperating with the feds.

This is the second bribery trial that Menendez is facing in under a decade after he avoided conviction in an unrelated case that ended with a hung jury in 2017.

He has denied all the allegations. His three remaining co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

With Post wires

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