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Judge denies Menendez’s motion to dismiss bribery and extortion charges

By Sabrina Souza and Kaanita Iyer, CNN

(CNN) — A Manhattan judge on Thursday denied a motion to dismiss federal bribery and extortion charges against Sen. Bob Menendez on grounds of legislative immunity.

The New Jersey Democrat had argued that the charges violated the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine and Speech or Debate Clause, which protects lawmakers from certain law enforcement actions targeted at their legislative duties.

Judge Sidney Stein slammed the argument Thursday, ruling that the allegations underlying those charges against Menendez cover conduct beyond “legislative acts” and subsequently lack those legal protections.

Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez and three New Jersey businessmen were indicted as part of a bribery scheme in September. The indictment has been updated a few times with additional charges as prosecutors brought new allegations that the senator acted as a foreign agent of Egypt and accepted gifts from Qatar as part of a yearslong corruption scheme. Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Menendez could appeal Stein’s decision, which could delay his trial that is slated to begin May 6. A separate motion to dismiss charges based on other grounds is also pending.

Adam Fee, an attorney for the senator, told CNN in a statement that Menendez’s team is reviewing the ruling and its legal options, adding that “the court’s decision makes clear that the jury will have the final say on the government’s allegations.”

“As we have said since day one, the Indictment is a gross distortion of reality, and we continue to have full confidence that a jury will see the truth: that Senator Menendez did nothing wrong,” the statement continued. “We look forward to proceeding to trial, where we intend to clear the name of this devoted lifelong public servant.”

Thursday’s decision comes just days after Menendez pleaded not guilty to a dozen new felony charges, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, bribery and extortion. Prosecutors alleged in a third superseding indictment earlier this month that he led his lawyers to provide false information in interviews with investigators, including claiming that the alleged illegal bribes were loans.

Menendez has also faced a flurry of calls for his resignation — including from his own party and from his Senate colleagues — since the first charges in September. The lawmaker has pushed back, repeatedly saying he will not resign and believes he will be exonerated.

CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.

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