Sen. Cory Booker broke his silence on Tuesday and called on his fellow Democrat from New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez, to resign after being indicted on bribery and corruption charges.
“Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost,” Booker wrote in a statement. “Senator Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is best for those Sen. Menendez has spent his life serving.”
On Friday, Menendez was indicted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on charges that he and his wife, Nadine Menendez, had accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” in exchange for political influence.
Prosecutors say the bribes included gold bars, cash, home mortgage payments, a luxury vehicle and compensation for a “low-or-no-show job”—Nadine Menendez was allegedly put on the payroll of New Jersey businessman Wael “Will” Hana, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that a “corrupt relationship” between Sen. Menendez and three businessmen, one of whom was Hana, began around 2018 when Nadine Menendez “worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials” to her husband. The agreement called for Hana, with the help of the two other businessmen, to provide bribes to the couple in exchange for the Senator’s using his position to benefit the Egyptian government, Hana and others.
As a growing number of Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) have been calling for Menendez to resign from the Senate. Booker had remained among those who were notably silent—until his statement Tuesday.
Altogether as of Tuesday, a total of 17 Democratic Senators have called on Menendez to leave office.
Menendez, who did step back from his position as Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, on Monday defended his presumption of innocence and insisted he would not resign from the Senate altogether.
“The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system,” Menendez said during a news conference in New Jersey. “We cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable. To those who have rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts, framed by the prosecution to be a salacious as possible. Remember, prosecutors get it wrong sometimes.”