NEWARK – Sen. Cory Booker summoned all his rhetorical gifts for a brief turn as a character witness this morning in the corruption trial of fellow Sen. Bob Menendez.
Booker had his turn on the witness stand directly following Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, to make the love fest bipartisan. His eyes welling up a little, Booker held the jury and gallery in his thrall as he summed up his feelings on Menendez.
“One of the best things about politics for me for the last four years is I get to work with Bob Menendez,” Booker said.
Booker drew heavily on his time as mayor of Newark, where the courthouse stands, and with a North Jersey jury he could evoke some sympathy.
“Bob is a guy who has not forgotten where he comes from,” Booker said, referencing the “very poor” neighborhood “a couple miles” from the courthouse Booker calls home. He said Menendez “has their back.”
“I found him profoundly honorable and trustworthy and direct,” Booker added.
Graham preceded Booker on the witness stand, talking about the arduous effort to craft a bi-partisan immigration bill with Menendez. It was during the long days and nights working on the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform where Graham said he got to know Menendez personally.
“In very different circumstances, he always keeps his word,” Graham said.
“A handshake is all you need with Bob,” Graham added. “He’s a very honest, hardworking senator.”
On cross-examination, the lone question lead prosecutor Peter Koski asked both senators was whether they had been in court the last eight weeks to hear the evidence in the case. Both Booker and Graham said they had not.
Booker attended opening arguments, which are not considered evidence, and sat in the front row with Menendez’s family. Today, he left the courtroom immediately after his testimony, shaking hands with Menendez on his way out.
Graham’s office said in a statement the senator traveled to New Jersey at his own expense to testify. He left through the front door and took a few questions from reporters.
As when he attended openings, Booker left via the back courthouse entrance, reserved for staff and where cameras are shooed away by security. Booker’s SUV only stopped for a red light as it drove away from court on the streets of Newark.
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