Fellow Democrats over the weekend called for indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to resign.
Federal prosecutors charged Menendez with bribery Friday—his second corruption related prosecution in the past decade. Shortly before noon on Monday the Senator defended himself against the allegations during a news conference in Union City, New Jersey.
The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, accuses the Senator and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” in exchange for political influence.
According to the indictment, “Over $480,000 in cash—much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe—was discovered in the home, along with over $70,000 in NADINE MENENDEZ’s safe deposit box…as well as over one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of gold bars in the home.”
Photos of cash, gold bars and a “luxury” Mercedes Benz are posted in the indictment. Further, Nadine Menendez was allegedly put on the payroll of New Jersey businessman Wael “Will” Hana in a “low-or-no-show job,” according to the indictment.
Soon after the indictment was announced, Gov Phil Murphy (D-NJ) of the Senator’s home state called for the Senator to resign, saying that “the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state.”
That evening, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) became the first member of Menendez’s caucus to call for his resignation, saying, “I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”
New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chair LeRoy Jones, who has also called for Menendez’s resignation, convened an “urgent” meeting of county chairs Saturday morning, likely to deal with the fallout.
Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called the details of the indictment “extremely serious,” adding, “I do believe that it is in the best interest for Senator Menendez to resign in this moment.”
Ocasio-Cortez said further that it “shouldn’t matter whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat” if they’re facing such charges.
On the same program, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) called the charges “serious and shocking…I’ve never seen anything like this.” He added that Menendez “s going to have to think long and hard about the cloud that’s going to hang over his service in the United States Senate.”
Kelly, however, did not come out and call for Menendez’s resignation, noting that he has already stepped down from his position as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee—as Senate Democratic Caucus rules dictate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Menendez’s stepping back from the chairmanship, but did not call for his full resignation, saying instead in a statement Friday, “Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”
Sen. Menendez was previously indicted in 2015 on some dozen charges, including bribery and conspiracy, amid allegations that he accepted gifts from wealthy Democratic donors in exchange for political favors. That case ended in a mistrial when jurors failed to reach a verdict after a week of deliberations.
Menendez is up for re-election in 2024. He has been in the Senate since 2006.