United States Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, is in a federal courthouse Wednesday in New Jersey for the beginning of his corruption trial.
Menendez is accused of taking bribes from a wealthy donor in exchange for supporting the donor’s business interests in Congress.
This is the first time since the so-called Abscam scandal in 1981 that a sitting U.S. senator will go on trial for bribery.
Prosecutors say Menendez took bribes, including luxury vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations, from Dr. Salomon Melgen in an effort to change Medicare reimbursement policy so Melgen could avoid paying millions of dollars owed to the agency.
Earlier this year, Melgen was found guilty of masterminding a massive Medicare fraud scheme, but his sentencing has been postponed until the conclusion of Menendez’s trial.
Menendez, who has served in the Senate since 2006, has denied any wrongdoing and said the gifts he received were unrelated to any actions he took in his capacity as a senator.
As he arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning, he told reporters, “Not once have I dishonored my public office.”
He has said he plans to run for re-election in 2018, despite the 12-count corruption case he currently is facing.
Should Menendez be convicted, it could have major political ramifications in the Senate, where Republicans currently hold a very slim majority.
If Menendez is convicted and forced to step down before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in January, the Republican would pick his replacement.
Christie was a major supporter of Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign and likely would replace the Democrat, Menendez, with a pro-Trump Republican.