Opening arguments begin Wednesday in the federal corruption trial of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), accused by federal prosecutors of aiding a friend and alleged co-conspirator, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in return for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, free trips to the Dominican Republic and stays at Melgen's villa, and other gifts. The trial, in New Jersey, is expected to last about two months, and last week, a federal judge shot down Menendez's request to schedule the trial around Senate business. This will be the first high-profile public corruption case since the Supreme Court threw out the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) last year.
"I look forward to proving our innocence and being exonerated," Menendez, 63, told reporters last week. He is the first sitting U.S. senator to go on trial for corruption in almost 40 years, and if he is convicted, that would set up a battle over whether to expel him from the Senate while Republican Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) can name a replacement before leaving office in January. You can learn more about the charges, and the hurdles federal prosecutors have to overcome, in the CNN report below. Peter Weber