After a closed-door meeting Thursday Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) doubled down on his vow to remain in the Senate in the face of federal criminal bribery charges.
“I will continue to cast votes on behalf of the people of New Jersey as I have for 18 years,” Menendez told reporters after the meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus. The assertion echoed his remarks Monday when he first spoke out in defense of his presumption of innocence.
On Wednesday, Menendez and his wife Nadine each pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in federal court in Manhattan.
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York indicted the couple, along with three businessmen who have all also pleaded not guilty, accusing the Senator and his wife of accepting “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 the three businessmen 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.
A day before the closed-door meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said “we’ll see what happens” after Menendez addressed the Democratic caucus, but he stopped short of calling for Menendez’s resignation, stating, “I was just deeply disappointed and disturbed when I read the indictment.”
Noting that he’s known Menendez for “a very long time,” Schumer added that “we all know that for Senators, there’s a much, much higher standard, and clearly when you read the indictment, Senator Menendez fell way, way below that standard.”
As of Wednesday at least 30 Democratic Senators had called on Menendez to leave office, or three-fifths of their entire caucus in the upper chamber.