Newark, New Jersey (CNN)As he walked into the federal courthouse in New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez became emotional.
Speaking to reporters gathered in the rain Wednesday, he appeared to choke back tears as his son and daughter stood by his side.
“Never, not once, not once have I dishonored my public office,” said Menendez, a Democrat.
“I started my public career fighting corruption, that’s how I started, and I have always acted in accordance with the law and I believe when all of the facts are known, I will be vindicated,” he added.
Menendez, wearing a gold tie and a dark suit, sat quietly with his legal team in court as the Justice Department and his own defense attorney began lengthy arguments Wednesday on the first day of his federal bribery trial. Menendez, a senator since 2006, is accused of carrying out an extensive bribery scheme with a Florida-based ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, for seven years. He denies the charges.
For nearly an hour, Peter Koski, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, set forth the prosecution’s case against Menendez and Melgen in colorful detail, speaking directly to the jury without any notes.
“This case is about a corrupt politician who sold his Senate office for a life of luxury he couldn’t afford and a greedy doctor who put that senator on his payroll,” Koski said.
Comparing Menendez’s lifestyle to one that “reads like a travel brochure for the rich and famous,” Koski told jurors that Menendez personally intervened in a number of business disputes that Melgen had with federal authorities in exchange for lavish gifts and large campaign donations.
“This is what bribery looks like,” Koski said, adding that “Senator Menendez was Salomon Melgen’s personal United States Senator.”
The prosecution spent much of its time outlining the “official acts” it claims Menendez allegedly took on Melgen’s behalf, including Menendez’s attempts to secure travel visas for Melgen’s foreign girlfriends, inserting himself in a contract dispute between a company Melgen owned and the government of the Dominican Republic, and smoothing over a $8.9 million Medicare…